Most dot-coms sitting out the big game

By Stefanie Olsen

Staff Writer, CNET

It’s back to the beer.

While commercials during Super Bowl XXXV next month will star Budweiser, beer munchies and a host of other household names, dot-com companies will be playing only second string in television’s most watched sporting event.

Earlier this year, flush with cash and Wall Street celebrity status, 17 Internet companies strutted their stuff during the 34th annual championship game. But months later, many got sacked by the market downturn and investor cynicism.

So far, only a handful of Internet-related companies have signed on to advertise during the upcoming Super Bowl, and CBS representatives say they expect dot-com companies to constitute only 10 percent of the lineup for January’s game, compared with 40 percent last season.

“The dot-coms were a one-hit wonder,” said Tony Taranto, vice president of National Football League sales for CBS, which is airing the game Jan 28. CBS said it expects to draw more than 130 million viewers.

“Last year the Super Bowl got them the notoriety they wanted– is a perfect example of that–but once they got the customer, they clearly weren’t able to hold them,” Taranto said.

The drop-off this season is merely a ripple effect of the industry’s shrinking ad budgets and countless dot-com closures. While most Internet-related companies are still trying to create buzz about their Web sites, many either do not have the millions to spend on a 30-second TV spot or have turned to more conservative outlets, such as direct marketing or Internet promotions.

For the upcoming game, CBS has “gone back to a more traditional cast of companies,” Taranto said. Among them: Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo, Visa International, Federal Express, Levi Strauss, MasterCard International, Charles Schwab and General Motors, according to individual announcements by the companies.

However, and, two employment Web sites, are back this year. Accenture, formerly Andersen Consulting, and computer services company EDS will have spots in the broadcast. And online brokerage company E*Trade will once again host the halftime show.

Last season’s Super Bowl turned out mixed results for dot-com advertisers