Kim Kardashian in a self-depricating selfie ad for Victoria Secret.

By Harry Allison

As you scurry around buying your chips and dips and sips for tomorrow night’s Super Bowl party — by the way, it is estimated there will be 43 million of those in America alone! — think about this:

Perhaps the only thing more incredible than the number of viewers who will tune in to watch the Super Bowl is the amount of money it costs companies to land that commercial space. In fact, Frank Pallotta of CNN Money noted that 30 seconds of advertisement time costs an average of $4.5 million for this year’s Super Bowl, which is an all-time record.

NBC didn’t even sell all of the available slots until Wednesday, which prompted this comment from network executive vice president of sales and marketing Seth Winter, via Pallotta: “It’s been a challenging ad sales marketplace, but we came through with flying colors.”

Fox charged an average of $4 million per 30 seconds for last year’s game, but it also sold out all of the available time about two months before the contest. Pallotta pointed out that there has been a general decrease in television advertising spending, which likely contributed to the delayed sales of advertising time for this season’s Super Bowl.

So how many people will have to actively tune in for that astronomically high price to pay off for the companies?

Mike Ozanian of Forbes broke down the specific numbers involved:
NBC will need an average television audience of at least 120 million for this year’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots in order for advertisers to get the same bang for the buck as last year’s NFL championship game.

Super Bowl 48, which saw the Seahawks crush the Denver Broncos 43-8, had a record average television audience of 112.2 million on Fox and generated $331.8 million in advertising spending, according to Kantar Media. That works out to $3 of advertising spending per viewer, in current dollars, the highest ratio over the past decade.

The good news for the advertisers is that the Super Bowl has drawn in at least 105 million viewers in each of the past five seasons, and it set a television ratings record in 2014. If all of the people who tuned in last season enjoyed watching the Seahawks, they will get the chance to do so again this year.

Ad Age broke down which companies bought these incredibly expensive advertisements and highlighted the fact that 15 new advertisers will join the field this year, including a number of technology companies.

The biggest spender was Anheuser-Busch, which bought seven 30-second ads, but large companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, movie studios and car companies also forked over some serious cash. Interestingly, McDonald’s has used advertisement space right before the game starts in past years but will be involved with a commercial during the actual contest this season.

The best way to keep viewers tuned in to see all of the advertisements is with a close game. The worst possible thing that could happen for those companies that bought ad space in the fourth quarter is a blowout because viewers would gradually tune out.

Fortunately for the companies, the showdown between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks should come down to the final minutes. After all, it is the prototypical clash between quarterback Tom Brady and the high-powered Patriots offense and cornerback Richard Sherman and the lockdown Seahawks defense.

It is also a legacy game between Brady, who is making his quarterback-record sixth Super Bowl appearance, and a Seahawks squad that is looking to become the first team to win two titles in a row since Brady and the Patriots.

America loves its superstars and storylines, and there are plenty of both to go around in this Super Bowl.

Assuming the Seahawks don’t completely overmatch the Patriots like they did to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl, the big winners will be the advertisers.


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