Have an extra $5 million in change hanging around?

If so, you could purchase your very own commercial airing during the Super Bowl. 

Marketers have forked out more than $5 million per 30-second slice of American TV’s most coveted ad real estate since 2016. 

The Super Bowl is also responsible for about 2.5 percent of the annual ad spend at the host network. Pick any of the other 364 days of the year to run your spot, and you’re guaranteed a much lower price. 

While only one team can win Super Bowl LIV, many big-name brands will win by spending millions on entertaining commercials.

If you’ve ever wondered about the history of Super Bowl commercials and the big money that goes into making them, keep reading. We have some impressive dollar figures to share.

Super Bowl Commercial Costs Through the Years

Super Bowl commercial prices weren’t always as astronomical as they are now.

The cost advertisers paid to air a commercial during Super Bowl I on January 15, 1967, was $40,000 (or $306,758 in 2019 inflation-adjusted dollars) for a 30-second spot. That’s about $1,333 per second. 

The Green Pay Backers won the inaugural big game over the Kansas City Chiefs, as advertisers discovered the power of a football audience.

By Super Bowl XI in 1977, the same 30-second commercial cost $125,000 (worth $528,347 in 2019). Fast forward to 1988 and the price tag had risen to $645,000 (about $2.75 million in 2019) in Super Bowl XXII.

Costs continued to soar through the 1990s and into the 2000s. 

A 30-second spot during Super Bowl XXIX in 1995 marked the first time costs topped $1 million (worth $1.7 million in 2019). Advertisers shelled out $2.3 million ($3 million in 2019) for the same audience access in 2005 during Super Bowl XXXIX. 

The cost of a commercial in Super Bowl LII earlier this year was between $5.1 million and $5.3 million–a hefty price tag that makes a relative bargain out of what advertisers were paying several years ago. 

On average, the cost of a 30-second commercial has doubled every 10 years throughout the 53-year history of the Super Bowl.

Why Are Super Bowl Commercials So Expensive?

Exposure. 

That’s the single-word answer behind the enormous cost of Super Bowl commercials. There’s simply no other event in American television that draws in viewers like the NFL’s annual title game. 

Nine of the last 10 Super Bowls were watched by more than 100 million domestic viewers, or roughly one-third of the US population. Six of those Super Bowls drew in more than 110 million viewers.

The Super Bowl’s viewership numbers make it the most-watched broadcast annually in the US. The TV ratings firm Nielsen reports that Super Bowls account for 19 of the 20  highest-rated broadcasts in US history– the final episode of the long-running series M*A*S*H in 1983 is the only non-Super Bowl entry on the list.

For corporations, Super Bowl viewers become potential consumers. And getting their product or message in front of a hundred million consumers comes at a premium price.

Viewers expect Super Bowl commercials to deliver the same entertainment and slick Hollywood production as the football contest itself. The ads are a big part of the big game experience, and for some viewers, the main event.

Who’s Dropping the Serious Coin?

As could be expected, there’s considerable overlap between Super Bowl advertisers and some of the nation’s biggest brands. 

For example, stalwart parent companies Coca-Cola, GM, Anheuser-Busch InBev, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Viacom are frequent big game advertisers. In recent years, tech players like Google, Airbnb, and Wix.com have entered the fray. 

The Super Bowl’s common sponsors come from the automobile, food and beverage, consumer goods, and tech sectors. And just like the NFL’s two remaining teams battling to decide the season champion, sector competitors often run competing ads during the Super Bowl broadcast. 

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s eight Super Bowl LIII commercials in 2019 set the record for most big game spots purchased by a single company.

The Cost of Admission Keeps Some Brands Out

Not every company can afford to advertise during the Super Bowl. The multi-million dollar price tag prevents even the biggest players in some industries from securing a Big Game spot.  

An advertiser’s ability to pay for a Super Bowl commercial can be seen as a differentiator in itself. Smaller competitors may be priced out of the space.

The $5 million advertisers fork over for a typical Super Bowl is just the cost of admission. The total price to produce a big game commercial skyrockets when taking into account production costs, talent, social media marketing, and trailers. 

All told, a comprehensive marketing campaign center around Super Bowl commercials expands to between $15 million and $20 million.

Who’s Making Money?

Advertisers expect healthy returns from the investment. In 2015, Seth Winter, an ad executive with FOX network, estimated each Super Bowl commercial spawns about $10 million in PR value. Add in the revenue streams from adjacent marketing efforts, and many companies are able to justify the high price of Super Bowl advertising. 

Super Bowl-broadcasting networks enjoy huge paydays on the NFL’s final Sunday of the postseason, namely CBS, FOX, and NBC. 

Each network has a contract with the NFL in excess of $1 billion a year. That money buys broadcasting rights to regular season and playoff games. The networks rotate Super Bowl hosting duties every year. FOX draws the honor with Super Bowl LIV

In total, advertisers spent over $400 million purchasing Super Bowl commercial airtime during each of the past three Super Bowls. 

What’s the Cost of a Super Bowl LIV Commercial?

Advertisers paid over $170,000 per-second for commercial time during Super Bowl LII. The year we see the first $6 million ad isn’t far off, but don’t expect it in time for the upcoming Super Bowl. That figure will likely occur in 2022 or 2023. 

Based on recent trends, advertisers will pay upwards of $5.5 million on February 2, 2020 for a 30-second commercial during Super Bowl LIV.  

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