NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Groupon's got game time.
Less than a month ago, the online company was shut out of the Super Bowl and was planning on only pre-game and post-game commercials. Now it has secured a single spot in Fox's broadcast of Super Bowl XLV this weekend -- an unexpected turn of events because the network sold out its ad inventory around the end of October.
Groupon, which pioneered the online group-buying trend, was able to seize on a lucky opportunity, according to people familiar with the situation. One company that had purchased time during the game decided to pull out in the past couple of weeks, so Fox then re-sold the time to Groupon.
Groupon's spot during the game was previously reported by The New York Times.
While not spoken of in public all that often, the practice of swapping out Super Bowl advertisers is not unheard of. PepsiCo's beverages unit had reserved time in the 2010 Super Bowl on CBS, but decided later on that its good-works focused "Refresh Project" campaign would play better in a different setting. So the company gave its time back to CBS, which in turn was able to re-sell it at a higher price, according to executives familiar with the matter.
TV networks often don't complain about such transactions, because they can often re-sell the inventory at a better price if demand for the Super Bowl is high. At the upper end, spots in Super Bowl XLV this Sunday were selling for nearly $3 million.
Groupon declined requests from Ad Age to talk about how or when it purchased its Super Bowl spot, but in a statement, Chief Operating Officer Rob Solomon explained why the company is eager to have a presence in the most-watched sporting event of the year. "Groupon has served as a bridge between the online and offline worlds," he said. "After two years in business earning 50 million subscribers to date, we feel it's time to use TV to reach an even broader audience."
As Ad Age reported last month, Groupon has made a decisive shift in marketing strategy, now betting big on traditional advertising and hiring CP&B and Publicis Groupe's Starcom as its new lead creative and media agencies.
The moves come at a critical time for Groupon; rival Living Social is gaining ground and more and more copycats are cropping up by the week. Already, there's a Groupon for Moms dubbed Plum District, one for porn dubbed "Coupon of Porn," and only yesterday a group-buying site called Black Biz Hookup was announced to offer deals exclusively from black-owned and -operated businesses.