In a fragmented media landscape, events like the Super Bowl are prized by advertisers for the exposure they offer.
More than 100 million people are expected to tune in this Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Kansas City Chiefs. Many watching the game will be just as attentive to the commercials as they are to the action on the field. These commercials are an institution in and of themselves, with the ads generating conversation for weeks ahead and days after the big game. Consumers might recall well-crafted Super Bowl ads years after their debut.
But capturing those eyeballs comes at a steep cost. This year, companies are paying about $7 million for a 30-second spot — and that’s just for the air time. Add on top of that the cost of hiring the talent needed to produce the ad, and the costs spiral even higher.
Advertisers come and go
The value of that spending can be fiercely debated. For companies that sell beer, chips or cars, the game is often an annual ritual. But other advertisers might come and go.
This certainly is true for the cryptocurrency companies that bought up airtime last year. Crypto exchange FTX had received accolades for its ad, which starred comedian Larry David as a time-traveling skeptic, pooh-poohing inventions from the wheel to the lightbulb. The commercial encouraged viewers not to doubt cryptocurrency. “Don’t be like Larry,” it said.
Months later, it seems some skepticism was warranted. FTX, now bankrupt, has collapsed in a scandal that is being investigated by federal prosecutors.
So does Super Bowl exposure truly help boost business? Going by the companies’ share prices, most didn’t have a great 2022.
Take Coinbase, another cryptocurrency exchange. Its bouncing QR-code commercial was hailed as wildly successful last year. It drove so many viewers to Coinbase’s app that it crashed on the night of the Super Bowl.
Coinbase’s stock is down 64% since that evening. And the company said it won’t be back for this year’s game.
Of course, the steep declines of some of last year’s advertisers speak to broader declines in the market in 2022, with a number of tech names on the list faring the worst.
‘Not a good look’
Deb Gabor, CEO and founder of Sol Marketing, said given the high cost of advertising during the game, companies need to be mindful of the broader economy. For the most part they are, she said, citing Toyota as an example, since the automaker is skipping the game for the first time since 2017.
This year’s list of advertisers is filled with snack food and booze companies, she said. “People are going to need comfort,” she said. “And snack food and booze are one place they are going to find it.”
Gabor is watching Bay Area tech company Workday closely. The maker of human resources software doesn’t seem like a natural fit for a glitzy Super Bowl commercial, but it’s spending big on a 60-second spot that riffs on how companies often call their top employees rock stars. Its ad is chock full of music legends, from Ozzy Osbourne to Joan Jett and Kiss frontman Paul Stanley, among others.
Gabor said she’s not sure how Workday will leverage this multimillion dollar spot beyond the Super Bowl. However, she said, the company has attracted some bad press since word of the commercial came out around the time that it announced plans to cut about 3% of its staff.
“It’s not a good look,” Gabor said.