Automaker TV Spending Increases 54% From August

Automakers spent more on TV ads in September compared to August, but totals are still down compared to a year ago, according to

September’s total of $442.3 million is down 5.5% year-over-year, but is up 54.2% from August 2020. Impressions were down 18.94% from last September but were up 4.76% compared to August of this year.  

The top five brands by spend were Toyota ($56.7 million), Nissan ($40.9 million), Lexus ($39.7 million), Kia ($32.8 million) and Chevrolet ($32.1 million). 

TV ad impressions for the auto segment totaled 32.6 billion for September, with Toyota leading the pack with 3.9 billion followed by Chevrolet (3.4 billion), Nissan (2.8 billion), Lexus (2.6 billion) and Hyundai (2.4 billion).

The most notable difference in where impressions came from this year compared to 2019 was that the NBA and NHL seasons, delayed for months due to COVID-19, came back to TV over the summer and continued to generate impressions for automakers this month. 



NFL football games still reigned supreme with impressions (2.3 billion in September, a 29.94% decrease from the automakers’ NFL impression-count in Sept. 2019), but NBA games were in second place with 1.2 billion , NHL hockey was in fifth place (242.7 million). Last year, college football games took No. 2 in September with over 2 billion impressions,  per 

Overall, sports-related shows made up over 20% of impressions in September and more than 57% of automakers’ estimated spend on TV ads. In September 2019, sports-related shows made up only 12.2% of impressions and 23% of estimated spend. 

As for the actual ads, the top spots by impressions had a variety of themes. Notably, the No. 1 spot by impressions was a family-focused ad from Chevrolet featuring some of the brand’s engineers talking about why Chevy offers so many safety features on their vehicles.

Estimated spend was slightly down compared to September 2019, but not for all brands —  10 of the top 20 brands by spend saw year-over-year spend increases for the month. Specifically, BMW was up the most at 243.26% year-over-year, followed by Acura (181.09%), Kia (144.12%), Land Rover (126.35%) and Lexus (113.74%),

Cadillac, GMC, Volkswagen, Lincoln Motor Company and Mercedes-Benz had the biggest declines among the top 20 brands, all decreasing spending by 22% to 73%, according to

With the return of NFL and college football in September, plus the continuation of the NBA, MLB and NHL seasons, sports were a huge driver of impressions for automakers, said Stu Schwartzapfel, senior vice president, media partnerships at 

“Although the NHL season has wrapped up and the NBA Finals are ending, auto brands will still be able to reach sports-loving audiences through this fall,” Schwartzapfel tells Marketing Daily. “And given the slow start to the fall TV season due to COVID-related delays, sports will continue to be an important part of the marketing mix when it comes to capturing live viewer attention.” 

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