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Advertisers score with Super Bowl ads

Today is Super Bowl Sunday.

While there has been a lot of hype anticipating the showdown between Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks and Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos, what MANY people have been waiting for is the commercials.

In my early years as a marketing professor, before YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like, I taught many sections of principles of marketing. While I am a football fan (you do not grow up in the state of Alabama without professing allegiance to Alabama or Auburn—ROLL TIDE!), many Super Bowl matchups just do not deliver a competitive game.

So while I would watch THE GAME, I was really watching the commercials. In fact, I would videotape the game for the sole purpose of sharing the commercials with my marketing class, especially when we discussed advertising. Tomorrow you will be able to see any of the advertisements you miss tonight on social media; how times have changed!

This year the average price of a Super Bowl 30-second advertisement will exceed $4 million. You read that correctly. FOUR MILLION DOLLARS.

Commercials shown before halftime will generally cost more as, whether the actual football game is competitive or not, most people are still watching. If the game STAYS competitive, fans will stay with it, but otherwise will move to the food table at the Super Bowl party they are attending. This is why there is a differential in pricing for advertisements shown in different quarters.

Another reason that commercials cost so much is because, unlike when watching most commercial television, viewers do not change the channel during the game. They KNOW they will see something entertaining or provocative during the Super Bowl, so they take their bathroom breaks during the game itself and stay on the same channel to see the commercials.

Additionally, advertisers love the Super Bowl because of the number of its viewers. Last year 109 million people watched the Super Bowl! That’s more than the final show of MASH (105.9 million in 1983), which is the most watched sitcom finale of all time.

Since the advent of cable, television viewership is splintered, so it is quite difficult to get 50 million people to watch one show, much less double that amount! So the price of the advertising goes up, up, UP. But from a business perspective, the cost per view of a person who watches the Super Bowl is similar to the cost per view of a person who watches a sitcom or other sporting event.

And consider the buzz created by the Super Bowl advertising! During the past couple of weeks, some companies planning to advertise during the Super Bowl have been ‘teasing’ you with advertisements to prepare you for their ads tonight. So people have been talking about and anticipating ads already, plus consider the Twitter, Facebook and blogosphere explosion that will happen tonight after the creative/obnoxious/poignant commercial airs.

At workplaces all over the country tomorrow (and beyond), productivity will be lost as employees talk about and take to social media to revisit the commercials. To put things in perspective, the number of shares of the top 10 most shared ads from last year’s Super Bowl increased 89 percent over the previous year; these top 10 generated a total of 10.2 million shares across Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere.

Given the continuing explosion in the use of social media, expect that number to astound us this year after the statistics are in.

Many advertisers essentially introduce their products and/or companies to the market during the Super Bowl. This year Hulu has bought advertising space. Most of us probably do not know Hulu, but we will after tonight!

Other companies try to create brand awareness with old standby products. Doritos is not a new brand, but after entertaining us with its ads, Doritos hopes to see increased sales in a product that may have suffered lagging sales.

It would be cool to see the sales of Doritos for the three weeks prior to the Super Bowl, especially if we could compare those sales with the sales for the next three weeks. Doritos must think sales will dramatically increase if they are willing to pay $4 million per 30-second slot! That’s a lot of bags of Doritos!

Ultimately, for all of these reasons and more, advertisers believe the average $4 million price tag is worth it. What do you think? Bet you will watch the game tonight, whether to see football, the commercials or BOTH!

This is one in a series of columns by University of Mary Washington College of Business faculty on various aspects of finance and economics as they affect our readers. Lynne Richardson is the college’s dean and a marketing professor.

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