Research Digest

Super Big Bucks: Advertising During 2023’s Big Game

Abstract

  • In 2022, 149.9 million viewers tuned in to watch The Big Game across both streaming and linear. 
  • By September of 2022, Fox Television Network had already sold 95% of their ad inventory—much faster than NBCUniversal the previous year.
  • In 2023, advertisers are expected to spend between $6.5 to $7 million on each 30-second spot. 
  • 95.5 million Americans will be watching live sports through streaming in 2023.

Every year the Big Game attracts both large audiences and large advertisers alike. But how will the growth of streaming affect advertising during this TV event going forward?

Introduction

Every year, one football game in particular is watched by millions of viewers, many of whom don’t watch live sports at any other time of the year (we may not legally be able to name it, but the fact that you already know which game we are referring to says a lot). Last year, according to eMarketer, 149.9 million viewers tuned in to watch The Big Game across both streaming and linear, and this year’s audience pool is expected to be even bigger. 

Part of that viewing experience is the hype around the advertisements shown during the game, so it’s no wonder that by last September, Fox Television Network had already sold 95% of their ad inventory for this year’s game (much faster than last year, where NBCUniversal was still selling ad space well into January). According to eMarketer, this is in part because the uncertainty of this year caused some advertisers to wait and invest their dollars into a sure thing: sporting events that draw large audiences.

And invest their dollars they certainly have: advertisers are expected to spend some big bucks if they want to attain a coveted ad spot during the Big Game. The price of these slots have risen steadily over the last few years—a 30-second spot cost around $5.5 million in 2020, $6 million in 2021, and this year advertisers are expected to spend between $6.5 to $7 million on each 30-second spot. 

The Advertisers We Should Expect To See (Or Not)

But what brands are willing to spend that much to reach this audience? According to Ad Age, E-Trade, Pringles, Squarespace, Doritos, and Booking.com are just some of the brands that will be advertising during the Big Game for a repeat time. Some first-timer brands will also be participating, such as beverage brand Rémy Cointreau and liquor giant Diageo. 

But other Big Game mainstay brands seem to be sitting this one out. Toyota will be missing the game for the first time since 2017, and Coca-Cola will also be continuing their streak of opting out (the brand last advertised during the game in 2021). 

And as far as half-time goes, Apple will be sponsoring the much anticipated show in an estimated $50 million dollar deal, replacing long-time sponsor Pepsi. eMarketer believes that this sponsorship could influence negotiations in the battle to win the rights to the NFL’s coveted Sunday Ticket.

How Will Advertisers Extend the Value of Their Big Game Ads?

The true value of a Big Game ad isn’t just in the large number of people watching the game at one time (though that is a huge draw). The conversation around the game on social media and when co-viewing is half of the experience for viewers watching the game. 

Brands that find the most success in their Big Game ad will be integrating their big game spot into a larger campaign. As quoted in an article from Forbes, Co-founder of B2B marketing agency DeSantis Breindel, Howard Breindel, said, “brands can overcome the ‘one and done’ effect of a [Big Game] commercial by integrating the spot into a larger experiential activation where the commercial is just one touchpoint among many in an exciting and relevant customer journey.”

But it looks like some brands are still worried about the increasing concerns around social media ads. Despite the fact that many viewers turn to Twitter to share their live thoughts about both the ads they see and the game itself, the social media platform has been having trouble convincing sponsors to buy ads for the game. While Twitter has offered to match up to $250,000 worth of advertiser’s ad spend, many brands will be posting organically to reach consumers while avoiding any paid media on the platform.

What Will Streaming Mean for the Big Game?

One reason that some brands may be willing to spend so much on an ad for the Big Game is the growing fragmentation of the TV market. While advertising on linear television during any sporting event used to be a guaranteed way to reach large audiences, the rise of streaming has made it harder to know on which platforms an audience will be watching. Advertising during a big event like this one, on the other hand, is an easy (if expensive) way to ensure ads get in front of many eyes. 

Over the last few years, there have been even more ways for viewers to watch the Big Game. While sports viewership has been one of the last holdouts of linear TV viewing, the recent proliferation of sports streaming services has made it possible for that audience to finally make the switch to Connected TV. A report from The Trade Desk found that 44% of those viewers who watch sports at least once a week watch these games outside of linear TV. This year, eMarketer estimates that 95.5 million Americans will be watching live sports through streaming (28.1% of the population). And this season, the recently launched NFL+ will give many streamers a home for watching the big game live.

Conclusion

The Big Game continues to be one of the biggest sports and advertising events of the year, and advertisers expect to pay for that premium. The growth of streaming and the fragmentation of the TV market have only caused that to be more true in recent years, but that might not continue to be the case forever. Ultimately while brands that can afford the cost of advertising during this year’s game will benefit from the large audience, half of the value of Big Game campaigns is their ability to extend into other channels and mediums for the rest of the year.

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