Written by Bhavik Modi
The first Super Bowl, played in January 1967, saw the Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs at the famed LA Coliseum. A 30-second TV ad then cost just over $40 thousand, which amounts to roughly $280 thousand in current dollars when adjusting for inflation.
Flash forward to this year’s Super Bowl where the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. Numerous reports had CBS charging $5 million for 30 seconds – and some would argue it was a bargain.
Seth Winter, the executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for NBC Sports Group and NBCUniversal News Group once said, “We think the Super Bowl is worth closer to $10 million in incremental exposure for marketers.” This also extends to post- Super Bowl ad replays, positive brand image associated with Super Bowl advertisers, and the increasing number of Super Bowl ads released prior to the big game.
The Super Bowl is one of the few remaining “must-watch television” events. Gone are the times when viewers would crowd around TV sets or the wider public would simultaneously watch sitcoms like “Friends” or “Happy Days” en masse. With today’s increased programming competition, digital recording, computer streaming, and flexible viewing services like Netflix and HBOGo, it is harder than ever for advertisers to reach a mass audience the way the Super Bowl can.
Paying millions for a Super Bowl ad, however, does not guarantee an advertiser success. Case in point: Nationwide Insurance’s so- called “Dead Children” ad from Super Bowl 2015, in which a small boy speaks about what he was not able to experience due to a childhood death by car accident.
Public backlash to the ad reportedly proved so disastrous that Matt Jauchius, Nationwide’s chief marketing officer, resigned and the company passed on advertising in this year’s Super Bowl. There also was industry speculation that the fallout Nationwide experienced prompted Super Bowl advertisers this year to be more conservative with their creative approaches.
Certain ads nevertheless resonated quite well with audiences. Among them is the Hyundai commercial featuring Kevin Hart as an overprotective dad and the NFL’s own “Super Bowl Babies” ad. PayPal’s “There’s a New Money in Town” commercial also proved especially interesting to many viewers as it took aim at traditional “old money” financial institutions.
Even PayPal’s clever commercial, perhaps, would have been more provocative and risky a few years ago. Given the size of the Super Bowl platform and Nationwide’s debacle in 2015, many advertisers have learned and went with the “better to be safe than sorry” approach, as showcased with this year’s Super Bowl ads.