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Kelley professor: Super Bowl the 'Olympics of advertising,' as ad prices climb to record $4 million

Kim Saxton
Kim Saxton


January 10, 2013

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INDIANAPOLIS -- It is considered to be the most-watched television event in U.S. history, drawing an estimated 111.3 million people in 2012. It is no surprise then that advertisers increasingly see Super Bowl Sunday as prime ad time, with prices reaching a record $4 million this year for a 30-second spot.

“Super Bowl ads have steadily increased in cost over the last five years, and this is not surprising,” said Kim Saxton, clinical associate professor of marketing at the IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis. “Today, media usage is so fragmented; people choose where they want to learn about brands. And there are lots of choices: Facebook, brand websites, blogs, TV, radio, digital and print magazines and piles of social media. The Super Bowl is the best way to buy a large number of eyes at one time.”

CBS Sports, the broadcaster for Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, reports most of the ad slots have been purchased already. The new price tag is half a million dollars more than last year’s record, with companies such as Pepsi, Audi, GoDaddy, Hyundai and Sketchers announcing buys.

Saxton says that beyond the incredible number of consumers captured at one time, Super Bowl advertising has become an event unto itself.

“People actually stop socializing to watch the Super Bowl ads; it is known as the Olympics of advertising,” she said. “Brands use the Super Bowl as the foundation of their social media efforts. Volkswagen’s Passat Darth Vader ad in 2011 was not only one of the most highly viewed ads during the big game, but it was one of the most viral videos of the year. That ad was credited as part of the reason for Volkswagen’s 26 percent increase in sales that year.”

Saxton points out that brands like Doritos have been successful with consumer-generated ads.

“Doritos has had the best ad on USA Today’s Ad Meter three of the last six years, earning its creators a cool $1 million,” she said. “The Super Bowl serves as a key anchor in many mass marketed brands’ advertising portfolios.”