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NBC Still Has About 10% of Its Time to Sell in Super Bowl

Buyers Expect Sales to Wrap After Weekend Games Determine Match Up

By Published on . 1

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Although demand for ad time in the Super Bowl had cooled somewhat along with the economy, media buyers are predicting activity for the last parcel of inventory should ramp up heavily next week after advertisers learn which teams will make it to the gridiron classic.

Of the four teams that could gain a Super Bowl berth this weekend none hails from a major market and only the Pittsburgh Steelers have a strong Super Bowl history and a brand that extends to the broader nation, buyers and sports-marketing.
Of the four teams that could gain a Super Bowl berth this weekend none hails from a major market and only the Pittsburgh Steelers have a strong Super Bowl history and a brand that extends to the broader nation, buyers and sports-marketing. Credit: AP
NBC, which will air Super Bowl XLIII Feb. 1, is telling buyers it has sold about 90% of its inventory, and has only around six 30-second berths left, mostly in the fourth quarter. These same buyers believe NBC may actually have as many as nine to 11 spots left to sell. The Peacock boldly asked for $3 million per 30-second ad in the summer and fall, but people familiar with knowledge of the current negotiating stance suggest spots can be had for between $2.7 million to $2.9 million; those prices may come in tandem with securing a marketer's commitment to extend its presence to NBC's pre-game or post-game shows or to other NBC sports inventory.

"We are in active conversations," said Brian Walker, an NBC Sports spokesman.

Bigger push expected
A media-buying executive said buyers expect a bigger push to come after this weekend's games, and they will press for lower prices. One advertiser, Denny's, recently announced it would advertise in the game for the first time. One person familiar with the situation said Denny's finalized its purchase in the last few weeks. Teleflora, presumably taking advantage of reaching a wide swath of men two weeks before Valentine's Day, also bought an ad for the first time in the game to tout its flower-delivery service.

Typically, advertisers care not a whit about which teams make it to the Super Bowl each year. The broadcast of the game has, in the last decade, typically drawn between 87 million and 93 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research. Last year's contest, which matched two major-market teams -- the New York Giants and the New England Patriots -- broke records by attracting more than 97 million viewers.

This year is expected to be different. While the game will, of course, still reach one of the biggest audiences of the year, it may not set records. Of the four teams that could gain a Super Bowl berth this weekend -- the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Arizona Cardinals and the Baltimore Ravens -- none hails from a major market and only the Steelers have a strong Super Bowl history and a brand that extends to the broader nation, buyers and sports-marketing experts noted.

"Even though they come from a smaller market, they have a rich history and are a traditionally well-thought-of franchise, whether you root for them or against them," said David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute.

Teams not as important
Of course, the Super Bowl has been better known for the media hype and the commercials surrounding the event than it has for its classic contests. The cranky barfly will tell you that the game is often lopsided, and that ratings often dip significantly the later one gets into the third and fourth quarter. "Match-ups normally aren't a factor," said Neal Pilson, a sports-TV consultant who is a former president of CBS Sports. Still, he noted: "It's somewhat unusual for Super Bowl inventory to be available this late."

NBC is in something of a pickle. It may face demands for lower prices but it sold the bulk of its Super Bowl ad inventory to marketers who paid good money when economic times were not as bad and who were looking at last year's record-setting broadcast on News Corp.'s Fox. "It's important to a lot of people that the integrity of the price stays the same or that adjustments are made," said one media buyer. "There are a lot of things they can still do to uphold the actual price, a lot of things they can do to help make it seem more attractive."

Next week should see bring more transparent activity around the contest's advertising lineup.

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