How Much Do Super Bowl Commercials Cost?

This year's Super Bowl ads will feature some of the world's top business brands, and a few political ones, too. They'll be paying a pretty penny to air on Super Sunday.
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Fox Sports is popping champagne this week, bubbling with excitement that it sold all of its Super Bowl commercial slots for Super Bowl 54, or as the league dubs it, Super Bowl LIV, in Miami on February 2.

“We have sold all of our in-game inventory in the Super Bowl,” says Seth Winter, Fox’s executive vice president of sports sales. “There are a number of advertisers, frankly, who couldn’t land their spots with us because their creative wasn’t ready or because of some indecisiveness, so we are going to go to pre- and post-game inventory to land their units.”

Make no mistake, Super Bowl ads don’t come cheap.

For this year’s football fest, Fox is reportedly charging approximately $5-million-to-$5.6 million for premiums ads early in the game, when the world is watching in staggering numbers (98.2 million watched the 2019 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.)

The ads before and after the game go for a pretty penny, too, ranging from $2-$3 million.

Compare that to 2008, when a half-minute in-game Super Bowl commercial sold for about $2.7 million.

For companies that commit to an expensive Super Bowl advertisement, the spending doesn’t end with cutting a check to Fox.

“The overlooked wider cost is producing the commercial, which would have cost about $750,000, plus incidental charges, including travel, lodging and funding viewing parties,” says Mitch Goldstone, chief executive officer at ScanMyPhotos.com, in Irvine, Calif. “So it’s really much more than just the fee to broadcast a commercial during the Super Bowl.

Goldstone says ScanMyPhotos.com was considering a Super Bowl ad, but decided against it. “Ultimately, the charges exceeded our return on investment projections.” 

TheStreet ranked the best Super Bowl commercials from 2020 with buy and sell ratings.

A Sell-Out – and Brand Benefits

This is the first time a network has sold out its Super Bowl commercial slots since 2013, when, once again, Fox sold all of its Super Bowl ads by December for a game that was played in early February.

This year’s sellout is good news for Fox and for the National Football League, which shares in the advertising revenue bonanza (Fox pays the NFL for the right to air the game and makes its money back on advertisements.) 

The money comes out of a $39 billion agreement between the NFL and its network broadcasters (Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN) to air all NFL games from 2014 to 2022. The first three networks have shared airing the Super Bowl on a rotating basis since 2006.

For advertisers, the big question is how much return they can expect from their seven-figure investments in a Super Bowl ad or two.

“Return-on-investment basis depends on two things-- the reach of the brand reaching the largest audience of the year, and the compelling nature of the product,” says Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix, a data analysis firm that works with companies on advertising campaigns.”

It also varies considerably on the type of product that’s hawked on Super Sunday.

“Consumable products like M&M's, Cheetos or Doritos have the ability to drive immediate short-term purchase,” Daboll says. “Other product-oriented ads, such as WeatherTech, or Avocados from Mexico, drive awareness and showcase product superiority, thereby driving ROI as well.”

On the flip side, a newly-minted business brand that has very low awareness “can greatly benefit from a mass audience-- unless, of course, the ad is horrible-- that can take years to recover from," Daboll says.

"Ultimately, brands that either have high reach looking for increased purchase frequency or new brands trying to drive initial awareness, those are the brands that can best benefit from Super Bowl exposure," he notes.

“It really helps if the ads are likeable, and either have humor, emotional elements or product innovation with broad market appeal – those are the ads that steal the show,” Daboll says.

Big Brand Names Lining Up

Who’s forking over the cash for this year’s Super Bowl advertisements?

For starters, politicians at the highest level are buying air time on Super Bowl Sunday. Both President Donald Trump and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (running for president as a Democrat) will have ads up on the screen for Super Sunday.

On the corporate front, Anheuser-Busch is expected to be a big buyer on Super Sunday, reportedly securing four 60-second ads highlighting not just Budweiser beer (a staple around the Super Bowl), but a new ad shining a light on Bud Light Seltzer and a commercial for its new Michelob entry, Pure Gold.

Cheetos is back after a decade-long absence with a new ad featuring iconic rapper MC Hammer, with ads reportedly spotlighting Cheetos’ newest snack, Cheetos Popcorn. Another Super Sunday mainstay, Doritos, will air a 30-second commercial with singers Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus singing the former’s big hit, “Old Town Road,” for the company’s Cool Ranch Doritos brand.

Hyundai, Kia and Audi are all airing ads aimed at car buyers, while Facebook is entering the Super Bowl commercial fray featuring Sylvester Stallone and Chris Rock touting the social media’s brand to tens of millions of consumers.

Get the Commercials and Not the Game

If you’re really into commercials and could care less about football, there is a way to watch the Super Bowl commercials and skip the game.

If you have TiVo, use its GameSkip feature to record the game to zoom through it and get straight to the commercials.

Just set your TiVo to record during the game and, an hour after it's over, look for the onscreen “SKIP” icon. Once the icon appears, you can jump right to the commercial breaks.

In the eyes of all the ad executives who broke the bank and put their careers on the line to buy ads for the year's biggest sporting spectacle, it's the least you can do. After all, the world's biggest brands have ponied up a staggering $5.6 billion to get your attention.