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Super Bowl Advertising: The True Cost of Reaching Your Audience

Super Sunday! It’s that time of year again. The national past time that stops the entire country for a day! The implications and ripples are felt far and wide through multiple industries. You grab the chips and salsa. The beer is flying off the shelfs. There are steaks on the grill. The TV is tuned in to the pre-show to see the entertainment. The biggest names in music are singing the national anthem. There’s an electricity in the air and it seems as if the world stops to watch.

Both men and women stop to watch whether they’re football fans or not. And why exactly is that? Is it because This is Us is on after the super bowl and we’re all dying to know what happens to Jack? Or…

The commercials.

Super bowl advertising is BIG BUSINESS. The cost of doing business seems to be sky rocketing. With the cost continually rising, it seems as if the cost of placing an ad is not worth it. The cost for a commercial has reached an all time high for advertising this year…roughly $5.2 million dollars for :30 seconds!

Say what?


At first thought, the average person might think that this is a MAJOR waste of money. You have an extremely short amount of time to reach and/or convince your audience of whatever you’re trying to achieve. The ad must be memorable, emotional, or cause a reaction in order to be effective. However, when examining the cost to reach the potential audience, do the numbers begin to tell a different story?

How much does it cost to reach the audience?

The most basic way that media planners determine if a channel is worth investing in is by using a formula called: Cost Per Thousand (or CPM). If you’re curious, the “M” is the Roman numeral thousand.

CPM is the cost to deliver 1,000 people or homes and it’s often THE formula that is used in comparing or evaluating the cost-efficiency of media vehicles. The reason is that it’s generally easiest to calculate the cost to reach 1,000 people from any type of vehicle, such as TV, radio, billboards, internet ads, etc.

It is calculated by dividing the cost by the audience delivery, then multiplying the quotient by 1,000.

I know…a lot of math and mumbo jumbo…but extremely important to know when you’re putting together budgets. So how does this relate to Super Bowl commercials?

The cost of every Super Bowl commercial

The NFL has been gaining in popularity since it’s inception. It has had its ups and downs, but there have been routinely over 100,000,000 viewers for the big game for the last 5+ years. And what’s the foundation of advertising? Be where your audience is! There is no other event in the world that has as captive or massive an audience as the super bowl.

So what does this mean for marketers?

When the CMO of the large corporations are deciding each year whether or not to invest in this avenue, they have to look at their budgets. Obviously, $5 million dollars doesn’t have as big of an impact for a giant corporation like Ford as it would on one of the local Ford dealership franchises in your town; It’s just a drop in the marketing bucket. But for a company with less working capital that is growing, like a Soda Stream company, it can mean everything!

Using the CPM formula, we can start to look at different options for promotion as a comparative device. Below, you’ll find some different averages for a few of the assorted vehicles:

  • Facebook Advertising: $11.17 (source)

  • Twitter Advertising: $6.72 (source)

  • Instagram Advertising: $13.92 (source)

  • LinkedIn Advertising: $8.39 (source)

  • YouTube Advertising: $13.18 (source)

  • Network Primetime TV: $43.06 (source)

  • Local Radio Station: $10-20 (source)

It’s worth noting that Network PrimeTime TV is a very similar CPM to what the super bowl is reaching. The premium is actually placed on these spots because they have such a captive audience…in that people will actively pay attention to the commercials and not “zap” or DVR through them (generally speaking).

For a big brand advertiser, it 100% makes sense to take advantage of Super Bowl commercials at a relatively reasonable cost per thousand of an extremely engaged audience. For local businesses, even though the Super Bowl provides 7 minutes of allotment time for local advertising, it’s generally not the best idea to try to buy these spots due to the competitive nature with bigger local stores.

This is where social media advertising really works so well. You get a more targeted audience at a much cheaper price when done correctly. You can account for every dollar spent, monitor engagement, and target frequency on the RIGHT prospects to turn them into customers…or even better…repeat customers.

As an example, look at what Oreo did during the Super Bowl in 2013 in New Orleans when the lights went out…

The results of the branding were fantastic. For zero media dollars, Oreo ended up achieving more than $25 million dollars-worth of earned impressions.

What are your thoughts and opinions on this? Comment below and let us know if you think Super Bowl advertising is worth the cost or just an outrageous waste of money.


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