Cost Of Super Bowl Spot An Enduring Fascination

There aren’t many numbers that generate the type of widespread interest the cost of a Super Bowl spot does. People perk up when they hear the numbers each year.

There’s incredulity with someone's willingness to spend $4 million for 30 seconds, which is made all the more curious when figuring that’s like $130,000 a second.

How crazy! What a waste! Who are these fools making these decisions?

Then, that initial disbelief can lead to even more questions after a ho-hum spot airs: “$4 million for that garbage!”

So, it would seem marketers would want to do everything possible to keep the cost of an ad under wraps. Please no headlines about some exorbitant figure.

And surely, they would plead with networks not to stand up and declare: “Demand was so high, several advertisers have paid (insert exorbitant figure here).”

No. Once a marketer has committed the money, it makes sense to welcome the declarations. Let a network tout the high pricing, let the charges of “this kind of excessive spending is what’s bringing this country down” rage.



It spurs attention. Much of what gets people to tune into the ads so intently is simply the cost itself. People enjoy the opportunity to judge whether the money was well-spent.

Of course, that brings an imperative not to offer a dud of a spot. If people think a company is crazy enough to spend $4 million, their amazement doubles if they determine the investment was as valuable as shredding bills. (Some might suggest that happened to BlackBerry on Sunday.) 

But floating word about how expensive the big game is can bring big-time interest in a marketer, notably some of the smaller advertisers that annually jump into the game. Consider Wonderful Pistachios this year. At least before the game, some people might have been wondering: "If they have an extra $4 million to spend, people must really like their nuts, what am I missing?"

So, on one level, part of what advertisers are paying $4 million for is for people to know they are paying $4 million.

2 comments about "Cost Of Super Bowl Spot An Enduring Fascination".
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  1. Fred Cunha from Extreme Reach, February 6, 2013 at 6:37 p.m.

    I think that the only people who are aware of the price tag are the ones in the business ... Every time I brought up the $3.7-3.8 million number, "normal" people were surprised...

  2. Alvin Silk from Harvard Business School, February 6, 2013 at 6:59 p.m.

    David Goetzl's commentary raises some intriguing issues. May I go further and suggest several other "knowable" but presently unknowin parameters. First, if $4 mill. is the "average" cost of 30 seconds of Super Bowl air time, what are the max, median, and min prices paid? And what accounts for that variability? Second, what about creative development and production costs? What share of the total cost of advertising for 30 seconds on the Super Bowl is for accounted for by the $4 mill. cost of just the broadcast time? How many alternative concepts and commercials are developed and tested in the process leading to the final choice of one? Who knows or can offer informed guesstimates?

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