Here's why: The New England Patriots and the New York Giants are from two top-five markets, and their storylines are compelling enough to hold an audience's attention whether the game is close or not, according to marketers and ad buyers.
Consider fourth-quarter spots, which have long been considered rolls of the dice. These ads typically are slightly discounted from earlier-game spots because all-too-frequent blowouts sometimes lead millions of viewers to tune out in the waning moments. But when the game is tight, the fourth quarter tends to have the highest level of viewer engagement, and those cheaper ads provide the best returns on investment.
This year, the risk is much smaller than that potential reward because of the Patriots' pursuit of an unprecedented 19-0 record, which is expected to keep viewers glued to the game's closing moments.
In an earlier interview, Bob Lachky, exec VP-global industry and creative development at Anheuser-Busch, the game's heaviest advertiser, said interest in seeing the Patriots make -- or fail to make -- history figures to bolster fourth-quarter viewership regardless of the score. (A-B has one ad scheduled for the fourth quarter.)
Said Sam Sussman, senior VP-director of sports activation at media agency Starcom USA: "If this year's game is a blowout, it's likely that it will decline to a lesser degree than most games do. It's a safer buy this year."
Adding to the on-paper intrigue of the matchup is the presence of teams from top-five markets, New York and Boston.
Home team advantage
Typically, the markets whose teams are playing in the game see higher audience penetration. According to Nielsen, last year's markets, Chicago and Indianapolis, had the first- and third-highest average-household ratings nationwide, respectively, during the game. (Curiously, Orlando, Fla., was No. 2).
So in theory at least, greater market penetration in two of the largest markets ought to be a boon for advertisers. "It certainly lays a foundation," Mr. Sussman said. "But the closeness of the game and the storylines of the game matter more."
Indeed, the last Super Bowl featuring the Giants -- they lost 35-7 to Baltimore in 2001 -- drew one of the lowest ratings in recent history.
But this matchup seems to offer better fodder for fans. Beyond the Patriots' attempt to make history, there's also the intrigue surrounding quarterback Tom Brady's mysterious ankle injury. The yarn that captivated football fans surrounding the Giants was the "comeback" story of head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning, each of whom was described as a failure in the New York tabloids earlier this year.
The two teams also played a close, exciting game during the last week of the regular season that saw the Patriots trailing in the fourth quarter before going on to win 38-35.
The one on-paper concern about the contest, Mr. Sussman said, is the presence of two Northeast teams, which could have less appeal to the western and southern U.S.
History says those concerns might be valid. The last all-Northeast Super Bowl, the 2005 clash between the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, drew more than 3 million fewer viewers than the 2004 game between the Patriots and Carolina Panthers. It marked the only time this decade when a Super Bowl drew fewer viewers than the year before, according to Nielsen.