Advertisers open wallets to get Super exposure

Commercials costing $2.4 million for a 30-second slot is an easy sale for today’s Super Bowl.

By Karen Robinson-Jacobs The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS, Texas, — Thirty seconds of glory during today’s Super Bowl telecast is running advertisers an average of $2.4 million.

That’s the equivalent of 800,000 bags of Classic Lay’s potato chips or 1.3 million bottles of caffeine-free Pepsi.

But there’s no shortage of advertisers willing to pony up for air time, including snack food maker Frito-Lay Inc. and its corporate parent, PepsiCo Inc.

The $2.4 million price tag — widely reported within industry circles, though not confirmed by broadcaster Fox Sports — is more than double the $1 million-per-spot figure of just 10 years ago. Last year’s ads averaged $2.25 million.

Advertisers accept the price inflation because “Super Sunday” represents their best chance to reach a mass audience, given the growing sea of cable TV options and the challenges presented by TiVo, marketing experts say. The game is expected to draw at least 90 million TV viewers.

“The Super Bowl by far provides the largest audience an advertiser can reach at one time,” said Nicole Bradley, a spokeswoman for Pepsi-Cola North America, a unit of PepsiCo. “No other advertising vehicle can do that. And people are paying attention to the ads almost as much as the game.”

The next-biggest annual draw is the Academy Awards, with about 40 million viewers and an average cost this year of just over $1.6 million for 30 seconds, up from $1.5 million in 2004.

Few advertisers can play in the Super Bowl’s league. For the elite, the rationale doesn’t always include an immediate sales boost, experts say. Some are seeking greater brand recognition; others want the cachet of being associated with some of sports’ finest. And for makers of widely used products such as snacks and soft drinks, advertising during the game is a natural, experts added.

PepsiCo has advertised during the game for 19 years, Frito-Lay for 11. PepsiCo bought five spots this time, reportedly making it the second-biggest Super Bowl ad spender behind Anheuser-Busch Cos. Advertising insiders say most of Fox’s 59 available ad slots are sold.

Bradley would not say how much PepsiCo paid for the spots, or which ads will air. Media reports put the price at about $12 million and list one ad as a promo for the fast-growing Diet Pepsi line.

Separately, Frito-Lay bought one spot, with plans to pitch its Classic Lay’s brand.

In “Fence,” a 30-second spot directed by Spike Lee, children marvel at a neighbor’s return of several items that have been missing for years — including a 1972 Chevy Impala and rapper MC Hammer.

Frito-Lay declined to say how much the ad cost to produce, but Dan Howard, chairman of the department of marketing at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, said spots featuring well-known celebrities can run more than $1 million. That’s on top of the ad buy.

Even so, the hefty outlay can be money well-spent, depending on product and the seller, said Chuck Tomkovick, a University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire marketing professor.

The Super Bowl has turned into its own “selling season,” which starts at least 10 days before kickoff. The main items purchased are food, drinks and, to a lesser extent, electronics.

Hallmark Cards Inc. lists the Super Bowl as the nation’s second-biggest party day, behind only New Year’s Eve.

“You’re in a consumption mode for three to six hours. And what you’re seeing on television is what you’re eating. That reinforces that you made the right decision,” Tomkovick said.

Pizza Hut Inc., whose ads run up to kickoff, expects to sell 2 million pizzas that day.

Advertisers also benefit from the ever-increasing ad buzz — including everything from heavy media coverage to Web sites such as and countless blogs.

“For food and beverage companies, those are very wise investments,” assuming the ads are well-done, Tomkovick said.

SMU’s Howard concedes that the “absolute cost eliminates most companies on the face of the Earth.” But at a scant 3 cents per viewer, “the cost is not so bad,” he said.

Tomkovick sees nothing on the horizon to stop the ads from creeping up to $3 million within this decade.

Howard believes the sky’s the limit. “It will go as high as the bidding goes,” he said.