Super Bowl

Super Bowl Surprise: Sold Out at Record Prices

24 Jan 2020  

The Super Bowl is just over a week away, and one lesson is already very apparent. The Super Bowl remains the most important marketing platform in the United States.

Huge Demand

The evidence is quite clear. First, the Super Bowl is sold out. You can take that statement with a grain of salt because Super Bowl ad space is always a bit flexible. Still, Fox is not scrambling to sell a few last spots. Not only is the Super Bowl sold out, it was sold out long ago. Fox announced the sell out at the end of November.

Second, prices are reaching remarkable new highs, upwards of $5.6 million for a thirty-second spot. Now I suspect many advertisers are paying less than that – buying ad space is a bit like buying a car, where list prices are just a starting point. Still, last year the comparable number was $5 million, so prices are clearly up.

A Puzzle

This is rather surprising. We live in a digital world, where marketers prefer digital platforms to traditional media. Viewership of the Super Bowl has fallen in recent years. Other big events have seen declines, too. The Super Bowl is an enormous creative challenge. Every marketer running an ad on the game is taking a big risk – for their brand and for their personal career.

The Appeal

If you look at the media landscape, the appeal of the Super Bowl becomes clear. First, there is no other platform with the same viewership, or even close. Digital marketing is targeted and precise but rarely delivers scale.

Second, people pay attention to Super Bowl advertising. This is simply astonishing – and unique. The Super Bowl is the only time where you can count on people to watch and look forward to the ads.

Third, the Super Bowl has an almost priceless symbolic power. If you want to invest in your brand, and let people know you are investing in your brand, where do you go? The Super Bowl. There is no other option. This symbolism matters for companies as they scramble to retain retail distribution and employee support. It also matters for politicians – it is not a surprise that both Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg are advertising this year.

The high price of Super Bowl ads makes brands want to invest and then create remarkable campaigns. As a result, the Super Bowl is on track to remain the biggest marketing event in the U.S. for many years to come.

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