NBC has just a handful of Super Bowl ads left, as the entire NFL marketplace is met with a sense of urgency from brands leading into the start of the season on Thursday, according to sales leaders at the broadcast networks.
NBC, which will broadcast Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022, has just about five, 30-second ad units remaining in the Big Game, says Dan Lovinger, executive VP, advertising sales, NBC Sports Group.
“Demand exceeds our remaining inventory available,” he says, confirming that NBC is now completely sold out of coveted “A” positions—the first ad slot in a commercial break—with just one break-capping “Z” position still up for grabs. Of the few ad units that Lovinger suggests are still open, at least two are back-to-back, reserved for a brand that may approach the network with a 60-second piece of creative.
The network is asking as much as $6.5 million per 30-seconds of airtime, up from the $5.6 million price tag for the game on CBS earlier this year.
NBC first announced in mid-July that it had already sold 85% of its Big Game commercial slots—a milestone that isn't usually achieved until the month or even weeks before the championship—with that enormous demand also translating to sporting events, including those that will air much, much later on the calendar.
Fox Sports plans to begin selling airtime in Super Bowl LVII, which is scheduled to be played on Feb. 12, 2023, as early as next week, says Seth Winter, executive VP, sports sales, Fox Sports.
“Last year was a tough slog, but by the end of the season we had a great year and money, frankly, came pouring into sports,” says Winter, adding that this year’s football ad inventory started selling earlier than it has in over a decade. “Overall, the market’s really healthy,” he says.
Given the tight inventory available and the rush to secure ad commitments for live sports as far out as Super Bowl 2023, Winter notes a growing desire among marketers to make long-term commitments.
“People try to get their sports investments down first and early,” says Winter, who’s currently “knee-deep” in sales for Fox’s broadcast of the FIFA World Cup, slated to be played in Qatar near the end of 2022.
Regular season NFL games are “extremely well sold,” NBC's Lovinger says.
Contributing to the fast and early movement of the NFL ad market is the decision by the league to allow sports betting ads in its games for the first time. John Bogusz, CBS Sports’ executive VP, sales, points to those first-time NFL advertisers as a major “catalyst” that helped move so much football inventory so early in the year.
The betting platforms aren’t squandering their opportunity: In the weeks leading up to kickoff, FanDuel even hired Wieden+Kennedy as its lead creative agency as part of its wider upfront investment in football advertising.
It’s a category poised to go mainstream nationwide; 23 states plus Washington, D.C. have legalized sports betting, with nearly a dozen more actively working to implement it, according to the American Gaming Association. A “majority” of the largest sportsbooks in the U.S. have expressed interest in NBC’s football ad inventory this year, Lovinger confirms.
Many of football’s other top ad investors heading into the 2021 season are the usual suspects: insurance giants, telecommunications companies and the big four “FANG” tech players, with categories hard-hit by COVID-19, including travel, automotive and movies, even returning with largely healthy commitments.
“You’re seeing more and more money moving to sports because of the diminution across ad-supported platforms,” Winter says. “But it’s kind of a catch 22: the marketplace is really healthy, sure, but only because there’s so much less” inventory elsewhere on traditional TV.