By Phil Rabin

For years, Americans have had a Super Bowl obsession.  Whether it’s because of the ads, the halftime show, the game itself or a chance to enjoy time with family and friends at a Super Bowl party, over the years the Super Bowl has been a sought-after venue for advertisers to reach a significant audience.

Wikipedia states that the Super Bowl, traditionally, is the second-largest food consumption event in the United States, behind only Thanksgiving dinner and “Roughly 28 million pounds (13,000 t) of chips, 1.25 billion chicken wings, and 8 million pounds (3,600 t) of guacamole are consumed during Super Sunday.” (Hopefully, not all in the same household!)

Like a giant-sized balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the Super Bowl seemed to create a shadow that darkened every other show airing opposite it.

But, the data suggests the air may be coming out of the Super Bowl balloon.  In fact, ratings have been falling since 2015 and the most recent game saw a further, significant drop in viewers.  In fact, an Ad Age item states that ratings for the most recent Super Bowl “took a hit, marking the lowest viewership for the game since 2007.”

Search Engine Journal has a report noting that a dozen brands skipped the 2021 Super Bowl, including:

  • Audi, which has aired 11 Super Bowl commercials.
  • Avocados From Mexico ended its six-year streak.
  • Coke sat out this year’s Super Bowl for the first time in 20 years.
  • Facebook focused its efforts on the Grammy Awards.
  • Hyundai sat out the Super Bowl after running commercials in 12 of the last 13 games.

Putting the Super Bowl situation in some perspective, states Forbes, is that during the regular season: “After a ratings drop-off during the NFL regular season and the first two weeks of the postseason, the audience for the two championship games grew from last year.”

So, the question is what’s going on and what’s ahead for the Super Bowl.  A simple, but misleading, answer regarding the 2021 Super Bowl is that it featured teams from media markets significantly smaller than NYC or LA, which can generate huge ratings.  Or, was it, in some manner, related to the coronavirus? Or an uncertain economy? If any of these are correct, it still does not explain the on-going, year-to-year drop.

Or, could be that advertisers are questioning the value of a Super Bowl spot?  According to Forbes, “CBS announced on January 27  (2021) that commercial inventory for the Bowl was virtually sold out. By comparison, last year Fox announced ad inventory for the Super Bowl was sold out on November 25.” Does this delay by advertisers and agencies indicate they were questioning the value of paying more than $5 million for a Super Bowl spot?

Although total viewer interest in the Super Bowl slipped this year, MediaPost reports that “advertising revenue for the big game, which aired on CBS, hit record levels — with a $545 million in-game ad-spending total, according to a preliminary estimate from Kantar.

“That would be a 21% increase from the $448.7 million in-game advertising revenue it saw for the 2020 game, Kantar estimated, a year ago.”

Stay tuned to the 2022 Super Bowl.  For advertisers, the real story may have nothing to do with football, but is the Big Game worth the big bucks to play in the big leagues?

(PHOTO: Tom Brady, quarterback of Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Patrick Mahomes, quarterback  of  Kansas City Chiefs, meet after conclusion of Super Bowl.  Photo by Tampa Bay Buccaneers)


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