Super Bowl Ads 2017: Analyzing Value and Cost of Top Commercials

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 4, 2017

The field at NRG Stadium is prepared for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, in Houston. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Each player on the winning Super Bowl team will receive $107,000 in bonus money. That's not bad for a day's work.

However, that pales in comparison to the money Fox will receive selling Super Bowl ad space.

According to Sapna Maheshwari of the New York Times, 30-second commercials during Super Bowl LI will cost advertisers an average of $5 million.

That doesn't even include the money it takes to produce the commercial or the extra cost to market the ad through various means. Via Maheshwari:

Brands, eager to get their money’s worth, may spend anywhere from 25 percent of that cost to the same amount on marketing tied to the ads themselves, said Mary Scott, a president at UEG, a sports and entertainment marketing agency.

"Even though the spots have incredible viewership — as much as the game itself — you never know," Ms. Scott said, adding that she recommends clients spend an amount equal to at least 25 percent of the cost on promotions related to their Super Bowl ad. "There’s become more of a game around the game in terms of ensuring that really pays off in a big way."

That's a massive gamble for advertisers. If the ad doesn't hit and resonate with viewers, then it's a seven-figure loss.

Of course, if the commercial stays in people's minds long after the game, then it's a huge win, as the brand will also stay there by association.

Think of Apple, Nike, Frito-Lay, Budweiser and Coca-Cola. These are worldwide brands that helped sell their message through legendary ads in front of millions of people during the Super Bowl.

When you think Mean Joe Greene giving a kid his jersey after the game, you think of Coke. When you think of the Clydesdales, you think Budweiser. People watch ads promoting these brands as they consume the products from these companies, and the circle keeps spinning every year.

Obviously, the ads didn't solely buoy these brands to the top of the business food chain, but they certainly help them stay there.

What's more incredible, however, is the massive spike in cost over the past 20 years, which leads to the question of whether it's truly worth buying the ad space anymore.

In 1995, a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl cost $1.15 million, according to Lauren Watters of the American Marketing Association. For the first Super Bowl in 1967, the cost was $42,000, making for a difference of about $1.11 million during that time span.

Remarkably, in 22 years, the price for a Super Bowl ad has more than quintupled. In this decade alone, we've seen prices between $2.5 million and $3 million jump to its current rate.

Looking at the audience for the Super Bowl over the years, it's not hard to see why. Super Bowl XLIII, one of the best games of all time, was seen by 98.73 million people, per Sports Media Watch. During the next year's Super Bowl, that number skyrocketed to 106.48 million before jumping to over 111 million the next season.

It's an obvious correlation: The more people who watch an event, the more it's going to cost to promote your brand. There's tremendous value in reaching hundreds of millions of people.

But the key is the same as years ago, when the cost of doing Super Bowl ad business was far less. The true value companies will get from buying ad space is the same as the value people assign to the brand by association through the commercials.

If the ad stinks, then it's a bomb, and the brand takes a hit.

But if the ad is a massive success, and people keep watching it on social media, and the brand name is out there on a national scale as talk shows replay the ads over and over again, then it could be worth it on the bottom line.

That all being said, the price for a Super Bowl ad this year is more than the vast majority of yearly salaries for the players on the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. Despite the value companies may get by paying for a Super Bowl commercial, the cost is ridiculous.