A Game-Changing Season For NFL Advertising

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Rescheduled games and a litany of injuries to star players have hit NFL ratings hard this season, raising uncertainty around television advertising’s biggest spot – the Super Bowl.

The big game in Tampa is less than two months away (for now), and some advertisers are holding out on purchasing air time. When spending several million dollars on a 30-second TV commercial, it’s best to know what you’re paying for.

Ratings Got Blitzed

According to Nielsen data, NFL ratings through Week 13 were down 7% versus last year. The dampened TV turnout has led NBC to rework its playbook, offering discounts and additional “make-goods” – or free commercials to make up for underdelivering on promised audience sizes.

Meanwhile CBS, the host of the 2021 Super Bowl has stuck with its pricing game plan, preferring instead to find last-minute ad buyers in what is known as the scatter market. Here’s how the network has fared in marketing ads for the Super Bowl, currently scheduled for February 7th:

  • According to Sports Business Journal, CBS has sold almost 80% of its 2021 Super Bowl ad package. That’s actually ahead of its pace in 2019 when the network last aired the big game, suggesting many advertisers haven’t been deterred by Covid-19 postponement concerns.
  • Usual suspects like Anheuser-Busch and Toyota have already locked up ads at CBS’ price tag of approximately $5.5 million per half-minute spot, just a hair under the $5.6 million Fox sold its Super Bowl ads for a year ago.

But remaining ad sales are expected to go down to the wire, when hesitant advertisers feel close to certain the game will go off without a hitch.

Delay Of Game Penalty

Last week an NFL memo announced playoff teams will need to take two planes to and from games and players will have to wear contact tracing devices when away from team hotels. The league will also provide households of players and team personnel with Covid-19 testing in the run-up to the season’s final game.

While the NFL has reportedly zeroed in on a February 28th make-up date for Super Bowl Sunday, a delayed game would be an ‘L’ for the league, networks, and advertisers.

The Takeaway: Mars Wrigley has already purchased advertising time for the upcoming Super Bowl. But a late February TV spot for Valentine’s Day candy just wouldn’t have the same impact as one on February 7th.