"Keep your hands off my momma. Keep your hands off my Doritos."
Those words were uttered seven years ago during a break in the action of Super Bowl 44—and most fans still remember the commercial.
That's how you know it was a good one.
According to the American Marketing Association, a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl back then ran advertisers somewhere between $2.5 million and $2.8 million. That number had more than doubled from 10 years prior, when the same spot came with a $1.1 million price tag in 2000.
This year, when the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots meet at NRG Stadium in Houston, it will cost companies like Frito-Lay and Budweiser a record $5.02 million for a half-minute segment. That's up from last season, but only marginally. According to the AMA, it cost $5 million in 2016.
As Bleacher Report’s Paul Kasabian noted, the price of a commercial exceeds the yearly salary of most players in the actual game. Only 14 players on both the Falcons (four) and Patriots (10) earned above $5 million in 2016, per Spotrac.
That means 96 players will have earned less in their Super Bowl run than companies are paying for a Super Bowl commercial.
According to Forbes' Chris Smith, the cost is unlikely to keep multiplying like it did from 2000 to 2010. Smith said that the "cost per thousand impressions," or CPM, no longer provides worthwhile value because Super Bowl viewership has nearly stalled since 2012:
[Once] upon a time, the Super Bowl's low CPM reflected why companies were often so eager to air commercials during the game. Advertisers airing commercials at Super Bowl XLV in 2011 paid $3 million to reach an audience of 111 million people, or the equivalent of a $27 CPM. With hit shows posting CPMs of $35 or more, the NFL's title game offered tremendous bang for the buck.
But now, the price of entry is climbing while the audience size remains mostly unchanged. That puts even more risk for companies to produce a hit—a swing-and-miss could be financially damning.
Just look at GNC.
According to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, the supplement company produced a commercial in preparation for Sunday but was told this week the spot can't run. The NFL shot it down because GNC sells "products that contain two of the 162 substances banned by the NFL—synephrine and DHEA."
This instance provides an example of why some companies are spurning the massive investment and opting to go digital. They're creating Super Bowl commercials, essentially, with one caveat: They won't air during the TV broadcast.
"More advertisers are considering buying inventory in a digital live-stream of the game," Brian Steinberg, Variety's senior TV editor, wrote in December. "And then there's the cost of producing the Super Bowl commercial itself, which often requires celebrity appearances, special effects and pop-song soundtracks. Overall costs these days can easily top $10 million."
The digital route allows companies to build campaigns easier, too. Some marketing pros, like Mars Chocolate's Berta De Pablos-Barbier, don't view a singular Super Bowl ad as enough anymore.
Unless you're a Budweiser-level powerhouse and can consistently produce high-end commercials featuring Clydesdales, it's tough to carve out a spot in the minds of customers in an increasingly social media-driven world.
"It's more and more difficult for people to talk about the ad and see our ad and get noticed, so that's why we are taking an approach that is more about creating a platform," De Pablos-Barbier told Sapna Maheshwari of the New York Times. "Television advertising continues to be an important part, but on its own it's not enough anymore."
The Super Bowl commercial competition is a game within a game. And it's a risky one.
Just think—if you go to grab some chips or a sandwich during a Pats or Falcons timeout, some company paid $5 million to provide the background noise.