CBS, Advertisers Banking on Hype of Super Sunday
Despite the economic slowdown, the NFL’s big annual show is still a vortex of promotion and marketing.
By GREG JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
CBS wants to use Super Bowl Sunday to prove that it’s a survivor. The average cost of a 30-second commercial in Super Bowl XXXV from Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 28 is expected to be relatively flat at $2.2 million, and CBS risks losing viewers if the NFL championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants turns, as expected, into a low-scoring contest. But the network, which last broadcast the NFL’s big game in 1992, is betting that Super Bowl Sunday revenue will top $200 million on the strength of a daylong flurry of game-related programming and the postgame debut of “Survivor: The Australian Outback.”
“Revenue-wise, we think it will be the largest day in the history of network television,” said CBS President and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. “It’s a big package . . . with the game, the three-hour pregame show and three separate hours [of Super Bowl shows] before that.”
Despite the cooling economy, CBS executives maintain that Super Bowl-related revenue for the day will total $150 million, 12% more than ABC generated last year. That doesn’t include the network’s Saturday-night lineup of bowl-related programs.
CBS also hopes to accrue long-term benefits from the Super Bowl-“Survivor” connection if fans who stick around to watch the reality show’s premiere stay tuned for its 14-week run.
Using the Super Bowl as a springboard for the “Survivor” sequel isn’t without risk. Tired viewers might call it quits after a day glued to the TV. And programs that follow the big game can end up looking pretty small.
“One lesson we’ve learned is to go with an already established brand rather than trying to introduce something new after the Super Bowl,” Moonves said. “We think we’ll hold the [Super Bowl] audience better than any other show has.”
Because networks use the Super Bowl broadcast to promote upcoming programming, it might be difficult to tell when the game ends and “Survivor” begins. Count on CBS cameras finding telegenic survivor Richard Hatch in the stands while announcers Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms plug the upcoming show.
CBS Sports will hand off the promotional ball to CBS News, which will use its “Early Show” on Monday morning to interview the first contestant bounced from the Australian outback. Super Bowl advertisers Pepsi-Cola Co., Frito-Lay Inc. and Visa International also are “Survivor” sponsors.
CBS is “carving up [the Super Bowl broadcast] so individual sponsors can say they own part of it rather than just a 30-second spot,” said Tim Spengler, a Los Angeles-based executive vice president and a director of Initiative Media Worldwide, a media-buying firm. That means a Charles Schwab Corp. kickoff show, an E-Trade halftime program and the Pontiac postgame wrap-up.
Other parts of the Viacom Inc. media family will join CBS in the fray. MTV is producing the halftime show featuring Aerosmith and ‘N Sync and is contributing a pair of Super Bowl-related shows airing on CBS. CBS Sportsline is operating SuperBowl.com, the NFL’s official Web site, and Viacom’s sales force is selling the big game to television and radio affiliates in New York, Baltimore and Tampa as well as through Viacom’s billboard arm.
CBS’ share-the-wealth policy illustrates how increasingly large media companies can deliver a wide range of advertising vehicles. Last year, for example, Walt Disney Co. produced the Super Bowl halftime show on ABC, populating it mostly with Disney entertainers.
The NFL also is trying to leverage its advertising game. In overseas markets, the yellow first-down line superimposed over the field will carry corporate logos–General Motors Corp. in Canada, Banco Serafin in Mexico and FedEx Corp. in 200 other countries.
CBS’ Super Bowl strategy is designed to counter an industrywide advertising downturn. In addition, just three of the 17 free-spending dot-coms that pushed prices to record levels in 2000 are suiting up for Sunday’s game.
“Last year’s game was an incredible aberration,” Spengler said. “It spoke to the times, in that you had hundreds of nascent [dot-com] brands in search of an identity . . . and it backfired on almost all of them.”
HotJobs.com, Monster.com and E-Trade maintain that the Super Bowl broadcast fits their marketing strategies.
“An awful lot of [Internet companies] tried to use Super Bowl XXXIV to introduce themselves to the world and they failed,” said Michael Sievert, E-Trade’s chief sales and marketing officer. “We waited until we had 80% brand awareness before investing in the Super Bowl. . . . And we’re back because we have something new to say.”
E-Trade, sponsor of the halftime show, also will advertise during the game. In addition, the company is providing seat cushions for fans in the stadium and is a sponsor of the NFL’s SuperBowl.com.
HotJobs.com is returning to the game, but 95% of its $40-million marketing budget will be spent on other media buys. “Everyone’s coming at us with the attitude of ‘Why are you in the Super Bowl when there are so many [Internet companies] in trouble?’ ” said Marc Karasu, vice president of advertising for HotJobs.com. “We’re in the Super Bowl for the third year in a row because it’s the right media mix, the right message and the right time for us.”
Super Bowl commercial breaks will be filled with familiar names. Anheuser-Busch Cos. again sits atop the advertising hill with eight spots. Pepsi-Cola purchased three minutes, up from two minutes during Super Bowl XXXIV.
MGM Inc. will promote “Hannibal,” the sequel to the 1991 film “The Silence of the Lambs.” Accenture, Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless will talk about their new names. Levi Strauss & Co. and Volkswagen of America will make their Super Bowl debuts.
The Super Bowl advertising mechanism works because viewers keep tuning in. “Getting together with family and friends to watch the game and the commercials remains a ritual that’s not going to go away,” said Bill Katz, president of BBDO New York, which is producing spots for seven advertisers, including Pepsi-Cola and FedEx.
Super Bowl XXXIV was the only broadcast during 2000 in which ratings for commercial breaks were higher than for the actual programming, said ad agency True North Media.
To capitalize on the commercials’ popularity, CBS will air an hourlong program Saturday night featuring ads from previous Super Bowl broadcasts. Producers want to turn the program into an annual event.
There’s no guarantee that the tab for a Super Bowl commercial is money well spent. MasterCard International Inc. sat out Super Bowl XXXIV rather than risk getting lost in the dot-com shuffle. “The value just wasn’t there,” said Elisa Romm, MasterCard’s vice president of advertising.
MasterCard will have two spots in Super Bowl XXXV, and Romm has been busy generating pregame buzz. By late last week she had given more than 20 interviews about MasterCard’s Super Bowl strategy.
Pepsi-Cola estimates that media coverage of its Mountain Dew “cheetah” spots during Super Bowl XXXIV generated more than 50 million impressions. “It’s the equivalent of free advertising,” said Pepsi-Cola spokesman Dave DeCecco.
Electronic Data Systems Corp., which is returning to the Super Bowl, still fields calls from viewers seeking copies of last year’s “herding cats” spot. “We believe we recouped five to seven times our investment from media coverage before and after the game,” said Don Uzzi, EDS’ senior vice president of global advertising.
“The merchandising techniques being used can be critically important when it comes to creating pre- and postgame buzz,” BBDO’s Katz said. “You have to look at every way possible to optimize the money being spent on the Super Bowl.” * * *
Rising Ad Rates
The average cost of a 30-second TV commercial during the Super Bowl has more than tripled since 1990.
2001 estimate: $2.2 million
Source: Competitive Media Reporting
Big Game, Big Money
The big game typically draws big advertisers. Anheuser-Busch traditionally has been the biggest Super Bowl spender–and it pays a premium to keep other brewers out of the Super Bowl broadcast.
* * * 2000 (Ad costs in millions of dollars) * * *
Anheuser-Busch: $21 million
Electronic Data Systems: 4.2
WebMD Corp.: 4.2
St. Paul Cos.: 4.2
TMP Worldwide: 4.2
Walt Disney: 4.2
* * *
1999 (Ad costs in millions of dollars)
Anheuser-Busch: $16.8 million
Electronic Data Systems: 4.8
WebMD Corp.: 4.8
St. Paul Cos.: 3.2
TMP Worldwide: 3.2
Walt Disney: 3.2
Source: Competitive Media Reporting