September 12th, 2008
NBC Manages to Rack Up Strong Sales on Super Bowl
By Stephanie Kang and Suzanne Vranica
The Wall Street Journal
Marketers may be tightening their belts amid the economic downturn, but you’d never know it from the sale of Super Bowl ads.
The National Football League season is only a week old, but General Electric’s NBC Universal says it has already sold about 85% of the available spots, up from the 60% that is standard this time of year. The robust sales pace comes despite an estimated 10% price increase from the last Super Bowl, and NBC says there are only about 10 spots left.
Returning advertisers include Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo and CareerBuilder.com. But one long-time advertiser will sit this one out. General Motors won’t be showing ads this year, according to a person familiar with the matter. The car maker has been in cost-savings mode because of a nose dive in car sales, but the main reason, this person says, is that it doesn’t have a car launch scheduled for that time of year.
The company—which has spent $77 million on ads over 16 Super Bowl games, according to TNS Media Intelligence—will air pre- and postgame ads on Super Bowl Sunday. It will also have a big presence in Tampa Bay, Fla., site of Super Bowl XLIII.
Some other major marketers, including FedEx, are on the fence.
So far, a dozen 30-second spots have sold at the $3 million mark, says Seth Winter, senior vice president of sales and marketing for NBC Sports & Olympics. In 2008, News Corp.’s Fox received about $2.7 million for 30 seconds, though one or two of the final slots went for about $3 million, according to media buyers.
Of course, longtime advertisers and those buying bigger ad packages won’t be paying $3 million for their ads. Anheuser-Busch, for example, which buys about 10 ads every Super Bowl, shells out about $2 million a spot, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Big TV spectacles like the Super Bowl and the Oscars have become even more appealing to marketers in recent years because of the rise of TiVo and other ad-skipping devices. For many viewers, rating the ads is part of the shows’ appeal.
Sports have been a cause for some celebration for TV networks recently. Not only did NBC’s Olympics broadcast top ratings expectations, but Fox enjoyed mammoth ratings for the last Super Bowl. The nail biter between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots drew the biggest TV audience in the sporting event’s history.