Superlative Bowl: Big Game Grows Even Bigger, Full Of Ads

To date, CBS has met with some difficulties in selling Super Bowl ad inventory, with more than 25% of inventory left to sell. Still, unit pricing, says a TNS Media Intelligence executive, is expected to be marginally higher, and the game has increased its ad minutes for five straight years. Will 2007 add to the clutter?

The 2006 Super Bowl contained a record number of ad minutes--clocking in at 47 minutes and 20 seconds, according to an annual analysis of big-game advertising released by TNS Wednesday, in anticipation of the Feb. 4 competition. What's more, the last three years were all record-breakers.

Should CBS be worried about its inventory gap?

Actually, it's not necessarily a bad thing revenue-wise. Although not in a position to comment on CBS' progress, Jon Swallen, director of research for TNS Media Intelligence, says he expects to see a slight rise in unit pricing, "but we don't know whether the commercial load will be as large as it was last year."

TNS analysis also shows that 35% of spending on Super Bowl advertising over the last two decades came from five stalwarts: Anheuser Busch, Pepsico, GM, Time Warner, and Walt Disney, which collectively spent $613.4 million in that period. Walt Disney is a relative newcomer, aggressively bidding its way into the TNS top-five list and knocking FedEx out of the running, which has seven years of game advertising.

In addition, TNS also found a higher rate of turnover among Super Bowl advertisers versus other popular televised events, like the Academy Awards and the World Series. While 78% of advertisers during the 2006 Oscars had advertised in the previous year, and 67% of World Series advertisers, only about 62% of Super Bowl advertisers fell into that category.

"In absolute terms, the advertiser retention rate is quite strong," says Swallen. "The turnover rate is largely a reflection of price. It is an expensive buy, and it becomes increasingly difficult to justify that investment."

One other factor helps prop up the Super Bowl's retention rate, although it's not reflected in the numbers, he notes. "More so than in other marquee programs, the Super Bowl tends to have a larger proportion of its advertisers as multi-unit advertisers."

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