Super Bowl Big Spenders


Find out how much Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, General Motors, and Visa are spending to get some play at Super Bowl XL.

By Steve Seepersaud, Sports Analyst

Page 1: Super Bowl commercials

Super Bowl commercials - Credit: UPI
Question: What company was going to sponsor a pay-per-view football game played by models wearing lingerie?

Answer: Chrysler backed out of a deal to sponsor the “Lingerie Bowl,” which was set to air during the halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

How much does it cost to gain the attention of 90 million Americans and one billion people around the globe? This is the question advertisers ask themselves every year when evaluating the purchase of commercial time during America’s most watched sporting event, the American Nurses Association’s Bi-Annual Bowling Festival. Just kidding; of course, it’s the Super Bowl.

Ultimately, because so many eyes and ears are tuned into the Super Bowl, advertising time does not go cheaply. But luckily for broadcasters, cost is not a deterrent for the corporations that are dead set on bringing their product to the coveted Super Sunday audience. took a long look and figured out who the big Super Bowl advertisers are, how much they’re spending in 2006, and what types of advertising they purchased. Whether they’re pushing beer or Britney Spears, you’ll be amazed at the money companies spend to ensure that Super Sunday fans are just as entertained by the 30-second ads as they are by the 15-minute quarters.

All amounts are in U.S. dollars.



2006 spending: $26 million for 10 30-second spots during the game, at about $2.6 million each.
2005 spending: $24 million for the same amount of airtime.

The company that claims to be the King of Beers is also the King of Super Bowl advertising. Anheuser-Busch, which has produced the exclusive beer of the big game for 18 years, is buying 10 30-second units for the Super Bowl XL telecast.

ABC, the network broadcasting the 2006 game from Ford Field in Detroit, allegedly sold those spots for a record-high figure of nearly $2.6 million apiece. On top of that, Anheuser-Busch is producing about 3.7 million Bud and Bud Light special edition bottles marked with a Bud Bowl Detroit logo.

Last year marked the eighth in a row in which Anheuser-Busch bought up the most advertising for the NFL’s title game. The brewer spent about $24 million in 2005 to buy 10 of the game’s 58 30-second ads. The expense appeared to have paid off; for the seventh straight year, the beer producer dominated the annual USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter (which gauges audience approval of advertisements).

Producing Super Bowl commercials is serious business for Anheuser-Busch; the brewer hires several competing agencies to produce commercials solely for the big game. Having produced the spots, the brewer pays about 800 people $50 apiece to watch them and offer feedback. Just a year ago, agencies produced a total of 25 potential ads for Bud to consider running during Super Bowl XXXIX; only nine made the cut. Over the years, the ads have featured Bud and Bud Light facing off in the Bud Bowl as well as the talking Budweiser frogs. In 2002, millions of viewers saw the trademark Clydesdale horses bowing down before the Manhattan skyline, which had been the site of a terrorist attack just months earlier.

Pepsi and GM aren’t stingy come Super Bowl time…



2006 spending: $10.4 million for four 30-second in-game spots, at $2.6 million each.
2005 spending: $3.6 million for two iTunes commercials.

America’s No. 2 choice when it comes to soft drinks is also the second-biggest advertiser come Super Bowl Sunday. Diet Pepsi is the official soft drink of the NFL and the presenting sponsor of According to, the company that tries to bring us the joy of cola is buying four 30-second spots for 2006.

According to Forbes, Pepsi spent $3.6 million in 2005 for two commercials informing consumers of their one-in-three chance of winning a free iTunes download with each Pepsi-brand soft drink purchase. That deal may have sounded good on the surface, but viewers weren’t impressed with the spots, giving them low grades in the aforementioned influential Ad Meter.

In 2002, Pepsi spent millions on high-priced flops featuring Britney Spears. A very expensive 90-second ad showed the pop princess traveling through time, while another spot that took up a third of the time (and cost a third as much) showed Britney singing doo-wop at a 1950s-style diner.

The going rate for a 30-second unit that year was $1.9 million; do the math and you’ll see that the Britney ads cost Pepsi a total of almost $8 million, while ultimately earning low Ad Meter marks. Pepsi also spent $4 million in 2004 for a pair of short commercials for their iced tea brand, Lipton Brisk.


General Motors

2006 spending: $5.2 million for one 60-second spot.
2005 spending: $14.4 million for six 30-second in-game spots, at $2.4 million each.

In 2006, America’s largest carmaker is trying to make the most of the Super Bowl’s presence in the Motor City. To mark football’s epic return to the home of the automobile, General Motors is showcasing its luxury Cadillac brand in ads and sponsorships related to the big event. Its Escalade SUV will receive particular focus in a minute-long commercial that is expected to air during the second quarter of the game.

According to ad rates listed by CNN Money report, GM’s 60-second expenditure will run the company a cool $5.2 million. Last year, GM bought up six in-game spots for a relatively cheaper price of $2.4 million each.

In addition to the fact that the game is being played in GM’s hometown, there have been suggestions that the car manufacturer is going all-out because the host stadium, Ford Field, bears the name of a major competitor. Not to be outdone, GM wrapped its headquarters in downtown Detroit with Super Bowl and Cadillac logos that cover 20 of the Renaissance Center’s 73 stories.

In 2004, GM was the third-biggest Super Bowl advertiser, plunking down a total of $9 million. That price tag included a pair of minute-long ads for Cadillac and the lower-end Chevrolet brands, at a cost of more than $4 million each. In addition to buying commercial time immediately after the game, GM also fronted the money for Cadillac to be the sponsor of the post-game show and MVP award.

Will Visa run up some debt of its own for the big game?

Super Bowl advertising - Credit: UPI


2006 spending: $0.

The credit card company that says it’s everywhere you want to be is not going to be on television during Super Bowl XL. Instead of spending money on the NFL’s annual extravaganza, Visa will funnel its ad dollars to the Winter Olympics, which are set to begin less than a week later.

Many industry experts say that Visa will get more bang for its buck over two weeks of the Olympics than it would for a couple of minutes of airtime on the NFL’s biggest day. Relatively speaking, advertising at the Winter Games is a bargain. NBC is charging $700,000 per 30-second unit, a fraction of the cost of a Super Bowl spot.

Despite its absence from this year’s broadcast, Visa has run very successful Super Bowl campaigns in the past that continue to linger in the national consciousness. People who watched Super Bowl XXXIX will remember a Visa ad in which Marvel Comics superheroes came to the rescue of a woman whose debit card was stolen. The company shelled out $2.4 million for the spot.

Back in 1997, former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bob Dole was stumping for Visa during the Super Bowl. Dole didn’t say how much he made for this non-political gig; ad industry insiders suggest that he made a total of more than $1 million for hawking Visa cards and Pepsi.

Super Spending at the Super Bowl

When a commercial appears on a television screen, it’s usually a cue to change the channel, go to the bathroom or head to the kitchen to get a snack. Super Bowl Sunday is the rare exception. The pressure for innovative ads combined with a massive viewing audience has turned these few hours of broadcasting into a cultural institution.

On one Sunday a year, the biggest companies in the country all vie for a chance to imprint themselves on the nation’s collective psyche using talking frogs, dancing pop stars and Republicans. And, hey, when considering the cultural impact that these advertising spots have, $80,000 dollars a second doesn’t seem so much.