Are Super Bowl Ads Worth It?

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Last year, the Super Bowl was the most watched event in America with over 108 million viewers. However, according to surveys and studies, not all viewers were watching for the football. Recent studies have shown that about 50% of the Super Bowl audience tunes in just to watch the ads. Usually, commercial breaks are an annoyance that you have to deal with when watching a game, and are usually used for bathroom breaks or a run to the fridge. However, the Super Bowl is the one game a year where I will sit and watch every single commercial. Unsurprisingly, with all that guaranteed viewership, a company has to pay through the nose to run a Super Bowl ad. Last year, a 30-second spot cost $4 million, and a 60-second spot went for $8 million. The average Super Bowl commercial also has a production cost of about $1 million, depending on the concept.

So are they worth it? The exorbitant prices, coupled with the risk of your ad not being well received or having zero impact on your sales makes it a risky investment, and one that many marketers steer clear of. However, running a Super Bowl ad comes with the guarantee of a over 100 million people watching your ad, talking about it and increasing brand awareness. Having a Super Bowl commercial says that you are a first-rate, trustworthy brand.

Several companies have seen increased success since airing Super Bowl spots. For example, Skechers aired commercials in 2012 and 2013, and since then it has increased its sales by 26%, and nearly tripled its stock price. Audi has had a commercial in seven straight Super Bowls since 2006, and has doubled their market share in that span. Chriysler debuted on the Super Bowl stage in 2011 with a 2-minute ad, and then another 2-minute spot in 2013. Over the past three years since their first Super Bowl ad, Chrysler’s sales have risen by 54%. Granted, these companies also made many other strategic decisions that contributed to their recent success, but the Super Bowl ads have certainly been a factor. For the right company at the right time, a Super Bowl ad can certainly be a jolt for brand awareness and sales.

7 thoughts on “Are Super Bowl Ads Worth It?

  1. I’m sure the sketchers ad helped the company, but you can’t say a 300% increase in stock price is due to a 30 second ad. They have expanded retail distributors internationally along with opening at least two new brands (SKCH+3 and Daddy’s Money) which I would assume would be mostly responsible for the new sales and increased stock price. As for Chrysler, the overall U.S. auto market sales has increased about 33% in the last three years so this growth is not exclusive to just Chrysler.

  2. But who knows, it could be from the ads. It is often hard to isolate causes of increased sales let alone determine the percentage increase caused by some sort of advertisement.

  3. Of course, thats why I conceded that the ads can only be viewed as a factor rather than a cause. It also depends on the company and its degree of brand recognition at the time of the ad. A Super Bowl ad for Coca-Cola may have a smaller overall effect than a Super Bowl ad for a relatively unknown company who is looking to increase recognition and overall market.

    • I wonder how a relatively unknown company would be able to afford that expensive of an ad though, but I understand your point. I think an ad with this large of an audience could be most useful for a well-establish company (such as Coca Cola or Apple) to announce a new, innovative product with an entertaining advertisement.

      I would also be interested to see how effective these advertisements are for beer companies since everyone knows their product anyway. Bud light advertises heavily every year, but of course it would be difficult to isolate just one factor and determine its effect on sales, especially when it is not limited by geography.

  4. I wonder what the actual causal benefit of advertising in the Super Bowl might provide for sales. My thought works on two assumptions; people only watch the ads to laugh, and additionally, everyone who watches the ads knows how much they cost. Thus, enhanced profits directly derived from Super Bowl ads are either because people want to identify themselves with a brand that has a sense of humor, or a brand that can afford to make people laugh. Either way, logically speaking I hadn’t made the connection of status in marketing that Professor spoke of until now.
    Or maybe it’s a psychological matter of priming and subconscious human irrationality?
    Or maybe people just like to be able to talk about the ads. Do words proliferate thought, which in turn increases sales?

  5. With these outrageous prices for TV spots at the superbowl there has also been a major shift in advertising away from traditional to more innovative, real time, social media advertising. For example, one of the most talked about things for the XLVII Superbowl was the blackout at the stadium for about 30 minutes during the 3rd quarter. Oreo responded fast and tweeted an image with a quote that said, “Power out? No Problem. You can still dunk in the dark” that went viral. A survey prior to the game said that 36 percent of Super Bowl viewers would be following the game on more than one screen (read: TV, and social media on a smartphone, tablet or laptop). So maybe taking advantage of opportunities to respond real time to viewers on social media is the play rather than dropping $4 million on an ad that might not even be well received.

  6. I think the article and comments highlight three items. One is signaling; I chose not to spend time on such models this term. The second is the status component, that ads can help affirm your choice as “fitting” who you are. The third is that such ads are part of larger marketing and distribution strategies. There’s no point in a superbowl ad unless you have the bricks and mortar in place to meet an uptick in demand. It’s not the place – or is it? – for an informative ad.

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