By comparison, NBC last year still had eight spots to sell just three weeks before the game, at a price of $1.1 million per unit.
For its Super Bowl XXXI telecast Jan. 26, Fox has sold 56 ad units to an estimated 25 advertisers, including veteran Anheuser-Busch Cos.; Coca-Cola Co., returning for the first time since 1991 with new Surge (see story, Page 28); the National Pork Producers Council, marking 10 years of its "Other white meat" theme with a surprise-ending spot that may be one of the odder ad executions of the game; and newcomers Fila USA and Auto-By-Tel.
OSCAR MAYER AT HALFTIME
Oscar Mayer Corp. returns as halftime show sponsor. Its package includes two 10-second teasers, a :50 before the half featuring kids from its Oscar Mayer Talent Search singing the company's jingle and a :20 just after the show.
"It celebrates the talents of kids," said Mark Zander, director of trademark development at Oscar Mayer, of the ads from J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago.
Despite escalating commercial costs and lopsided matchups, the Super Bowl remains the top-rated TV show of the year and is held in high regard by marketers. Some 138.9 million people tuned in to last year's game.
"We have no level of discouragement at all," said Tony Ponturo, VP-corporate media and sports marketing at Anheuser-Busch, which has category exclusivity for beer. A-B will run eight spots, including two "Bud Bowl" commercials from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago.
Beyond "Bud Bowl," A-B has DDB Needham and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, working on other commercials for the Budweiser family.
Nissan Motor Corp. USA continues its "Enjoy the ride" brand campaign from TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., in a new :60.
Another carmaker thought to be in the big game is General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac.
Nike is believed to have bought 1 minute for Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., to fill.
PepsiCo wouldn't comment on the size of the ad buy for its beverage and restaurant brands, but it is believed to have reserved 4 minutes for Pepsi-Cola alone.
There's also speculation PepsiCo will tout its promotion campaign tied to Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.'s re-release of the "Star Wars" trilogy.
Frito-Lay will back Baked Lay's, with new creative featuring Miss Piggy.
BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles Pepsi and Frito-Lay.
Some marketers are using the Super Bowl for product launches. Coca-Cola will unveil its new citrus drink, Surge, with two spots from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago (see story at left).
Dreyfus Corp. introduces an all-in-one personal finance management product called the Lion Account in two :15s from Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco.
Porsche Cars North America will air three spots before and during the game from Goodby, two of which will introduce the highly anticipated Boxster convertible.
American Honda Motor Co.'s Honda division launches its CRV sport-utility vehicle with a :60 from Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif.
Hollywood will also have a strong presence. Fox is choosing among several flicks to fill two slots, including "Volcano," which opens Feb. 28. Paramount Pictures Corp. will promote "The Saint" and "Private Parts" in separate spots. MGM will promote "Turbulence." The studios handle advertising in-house.
Fila makes its Super Bowl debut with one spot from FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York. Auto-By-Tel, an online auto buying service, makes its first appearance on TV, via RBI Communications, Hollywood, Calif.
"We're advertising on the Super Bowl to create national brand awareness for our company," said Peter Allis, president-CEO of Auto-By-Tel.
On the promotional front, Kraft Foods has bundled together 30 of its snack food brands for a $10 million watch-and-win contest offering the grand prize of Super Bowl tickets for life. Media support includes free-standing inserts on Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, an ad in the Super Bowl edition of TV Guide and TV spots on Fox. Grand Group, Chicago, and G.W. Hoffman handle promotions; A. Eicoff & Co. created the commercials.
Contributing: Chuck Ross, Alice Z. Cuneo, Mark Gleason, Jean Halliday, Jane Hodges, Bradley Johnson, Bill McDowell, Judann Pollack and Pat Sloan.