The average Super Bowl advertisement costs about $5 million to feature in the allotted 30 second slot. This does not factor in the cost of online as well as televised promotions beforehand, endorsements from A-level celebrities, and the necessary explosions or other gimmicks that are required for the added fanfare. These commercials are set to air during the time when people are usually taking bathroom breaks, checking social media to see what obscure thoughts people have on the game that they feel the need to tweet about, or paying the pizza guy. In other words, what’s the big deal?
To say the least, the Super Bowl is the one event that brings together the most people at the same time. The game drew in an audience of over 111.3 million people, which is more than the amount of people who viewed the 88th Academy Awards, Game 7 of the World Series, and Donald Trump’s inauguration combined. Not everyone takes a bathroom break all at once. That is why companies go all out when it comes to airtime. Many attempt to pull some sort of stunt that involves the likes of playing ping-pong against Arnold Schwarzenegger (Bud Light, 2014) or to pull at people’s heartstrings by showing the life of a young boy who died by way of a preventable accident (Nationwide, 2015). Others try to communicate a more subtle message by making a political statement, such as showing a Mexican family affected by Trump’s wall along the Mexican border (Lumber 84, 2017). Regardless of whether or not a commercial is a hit or miss, the primary goal that an advertisement of Super Bowl caliber must achieve is that people should be able to remember the brand name afterward. This can change everything for a company.
In the early years of the Super Bowl, commercials were essentially the same as the ones that could be viewed on television on any other day of the year. However, this all changed in 1984 when Apple debuted its advertisement promoting the Macintosh. The commercial featured a dystopian world very similar to the one portrayed in George Orwell’s novel 1984. At the end of the ad, the company showed someone breaking free of the world’s dismal conditions and had a tagline that promised that the new computer would make people see “why 1984 wouldn’t be like 1984”. The concept of appealing to a large scale audience during the most popular sporting event in America was seemingly unheard of at the time. From that point forward, networks started charging companies an exuberant amount of money in order to have them feature an advertisement during the big game.
It has been concluded that companies that air commercials during the Super Bowl do better than ones that don’t. One study showed that movies made better hits in the box office if their commercials played during the game. Another study showed that most companies’ stocks got a boost directly after featuring an advertisement in the Super Bowl. A sure way to get people to pay attention to your company is to air a commercial that plays during one of the many timeouts of the biggest football game of the year.