Marketers hope Bowl kicks off ad rally

By Michael McCarthy, USA TODAY

Madison Avenue is hoping the biggest ad event of all ‘the Super Bowl’ will kick-start the dormant industry for 2003.

The big game, along with the Oscars (also known as the “Super Bowl for Women”) are shaping up as hot sellers – at healthy price increases – while other sectors of the $245 billion ad industry scramble for dollars. That’s good news for third-ranked TV network ABC, which owns the rights to both this year.

“Clearly, advertisers recognize and are flocking to big events like the Super Bowl and Oscars. The big events are about more than advertising. They become PR bonanzas for companies,” says Ed Erhardt, ad sales chief for ESPN and ABC Sports.

ABC is about 80% sold out of ad time for Super Bowl XXXVII on Jan. 26, Erhardt says. The network has only one 30-second slot unsold in the first half and 10 to 12 overall, he says.

Erhardt would not comment on price, but a 30-second commercial is running $2 million to $2.2 million vs. $1.9 million last year, according to Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch. A-B will be the game’s exclusive beer advertiser for the 15th year in a row.

Encouraged by Super Bowl results and an overall uptick in TV ad sales, ABC is looking for $1.4 million a slot, up from $1.2 million, for the Academy Awards show in March.

“People want the reliable properties that allow you to shout above the clutter,” Ponturo says. “You pay a premium, but it’s worth it.” A-B has its exclusive Super Bowl position through 2005 and will be the exclusive beermaker on the Oscars for a third year, he says.

An early scouting report on Super Sunday players:

* A-B will be the game’s biggest advertiser, with 10 of the 30-second slots, including the coveted first spot after kickoff, Ponturo says. The brewer is creating ads for Budweiser, Bud Light, responsible drinking and possibly Michelob, says Bob Lachky, vice president of brand management.

* Cadillac will be the “official vehicle” of the game, sponsor the post-game show and give a car to the most valuable player. It will air a 60-second ad and 30-second ads under its “Breakthrough” campaign, featuring Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll. The 60-second spot will showcase the entire fleet, including the XLR roadster that goes on sale next summer, spokeswoman Leslie Rajewski says.

* H&R Block will be back for a second year to pitch its Double Check service that reviews past returns.

* Pepsi, traditionally the game’s second-biggest advertiser, will make a major push for Sierra Mist.

Contributing: Theresa Howard