In its annual drill-down on Super Bowl advertising, Kantar Media said a 30-second ad on last year’s big game sold for a record $5.235 million, but the firm’s study identifies some possible reasons for concern along with the growing revenue haul.
Overall revenue for Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots reached $482 million, Kantar said, second only to Super Bowl LI, which isn’t an exact comparison because the game went into overtime, generating more ads.
At the same time Super Bowl ad rates were climbing 96% between 2008 and 2018, Kantar said, average primetime ad rates were falling by 12%. The big game remains the biggest-ticket item in the TV ad world, with its nearest rivals in 2018 being the NFC Championship Game at $3.15 million per spot and the Academy Awards at $2.07 million.
One cloud darkening the picture is the cost differential between a Super Bowl spot and a spot during a regular-season game. That multiple came in at 8.4 last year given Kantar’s estimate of a typical spot costing $625,000 during the season. That’s the lowest level in the past 10 years and below the consistent 9-9.5 range over those years. “It remains to be seen,” Kantar noted, “whether the decline was a one-year blip or the onset of a recalibration in the Super Bowl’s value.”
Networks have been packing the game with ads, making it 20% more laden with commercial time than a regular-season NFL game. In 2008, the differential between regular-season ad loads and Super ad time was three minutes but by last year it was triple that level, at nine minutes. The Eagles-Patriots contest included 51 minutes 20 seconds of ads between the opening kickoff and the final play of the game, the third highest total ever. (Kantar’s count includes network promos for its own programming, which typically comprise about 15% of overall ad time and one-quarter of all spots in the game.)
The Super Bowl now contains 20% percent more commercial time than a regular season NFL game and the gap has been creeping upwards over the past decade. In 2008 the Super Bowl contained about 3 more minutes of ad time than a regular season game. In 2018 the comparable difference was exactly 9 minutes.
In 2018, Anheuser Busch InBev spent $42 million on the game, tying Fiat Chrysler in the top-spending brand rankings.