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Super Bowl Ads 2021: Analyzing Value and Cost of Top Commercials

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2021

Signage for Super Bowl 55 is projected on a building in downtown Tampa, Fla. Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. The city is hosting Sunday's Super Bowl NFL football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

While millions of NFL fans will undoubtedly be watching Super Bowl LV to see the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off, many more will be tuning in for the commercials.

Television spots have become a huge part of Super Bowl Sunday, with companies trying to outdo one another with innovative, comedic, sentimental and, above all, memorable commercials. Based on some of the ads that have already been leaked, this year's broadcast will be no different.

Take this star-studded ad for Scotts Miracle-Gro for example. With celebrities like Martha Stewart, Leslie David Baker, Carl Weathers, Kyle Busch and John Travolta, among others, this should be one viewers don't quickly forget:

While designing innovative concepts, landing celebrities and covering production costs can be notable expenses for Super Bowl advertisers, they are not the only ones. Buying airtime during the big game is a pricey endeavor.

According to Megan Graham of CNBC, advertisers will spend roughly $5.5 million for 30 seconds of airtime this year. Many of those companies are newcomers to the Super Bowl stage, looking to build on the momentum they have built during the coronavirus pandemic.

"In a year like this, that could mean, 'How is the brand relevant in a pandemic-induced world?'" Graham wrote.

Online freelancer marketplace Fiverr is one of the newcomers looking to expand on its pandemic-fueled growth.

"All over the world, freelancers [are] joining our platform, because of the situation, because of the pandemic and because of the high rate of unemployment all over the world," Fiverr chief marketing officer Gali Arnon said, per Graham.

While established Super Bowl brands like Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Budweiser will be sitting out Sunday, other traditional companies like Pringles, Frito Lay and General Motors will not—and while Budweiser won't be represented, several other Anheuser-Busch brands will.

For first-time Super Bowl advertisers and veterans alike, the reason to splurge on airtime is clear. While streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have cut into the broadcast television market, the Super Bowl is still a huge draw.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, last year's Super Bowl drew 99.9 million viewers, up from the previous Super Bowl.

Perhaps more importantly, advertisers know that many of the viewers won't turn away from the television during commercial breaks.

"It's one of the few remaining live television audiences where people aren't bypassing the advertising," said Scott Jones, an associate professor of marketing at Stetson University, per Adam Epstein of Quartz. "As much as there's a risk with a bad ad, there's even greater opportunity if you run the good one. People tune in expecting good advertising."

Simply put, companies know that they are going to attract eyeballs by advertising during the Super Bowl.

However, guaranteed viewership won't be enough to sway movie studios, who are largely expected to skip the Super Bowl window this year. The pandemic has limited the number of big theater releases on which studios are willing to gamble.

One way to shrink margins on film releases, of course, is to cut their advertising budgets.

"The number of 30-second TV ads that studios aired on top networks between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3 was down 82 percent from the same period last year, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending," Rebecca Rubin of Variety wrote. "That trend could continue until cinemas reopen and people feel comfortable returning to the movies."

According to Anthony D'Alessandro of Deadline, Disney will have two to four trailers air during the Super Bowl. However, most studios don't possess Disney's deep pockets.

Still, while fans may not get many glimpses at upcoming movie releases Sunday, there will be plenty to watch between football plays. The cost for companies is high, but so too are the potential rewards.