Marketing Agency

How NBC was able to sell Super Bowl inventory so quickly—and for so much money

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Written by publishing team

With less than a month to go before Super Bowl 56, NBC Sports is a huge success.

NBCUniversal, which owns the broadcast rights to the February 13 game in Los Angeles, is cashing in this month as crypto brands and NFT race for remaining ad inventory. But the network erased ad sales records long before last-minute negotiations.

In July, NBC told news outlets it had sold 85% of its available ad inventory, and by September 8, the network had only “a few units left,” Dan Lovinger, executive vice president of advertising sales for NBC Sports Group, said at the time. . (Lovinger confirmed at the time that the broadcaster would intentionally block certain ad spots.)

Additionally, ad slots sold generated up to $6.5 million per 30-second spot — nearly $1 million more than last year’s high of $5.6 million.

The constant demand seems to defy logic when looking at the shrinking Super Bowl audience. Viewership of the games has waned since 2015, when a record 114.4 million viewers watched them. Last year’s match drew 96.4 million viewers, making it the lowest-watched match since 2007.

So what does it give? There are a few reasons why the NBCU is making money off the game this year, one of which is that the Super Bowl still brings in a massive number of eyeballs compared to the rest of TV.

least is more

Much of it boils down to simple supply and demand, which has allowed the TV ad industry to command high rates despite shrinking viewership across the board. “Access is increasingly difficult to find in the market, and if you can access, you get a commodity with great value,” Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, explained at an investor conference in June.

And the Super Bowl is a very valuable commodity. Although viewership is low, its drop is far less exciting than other live streams – like award shows – making the game one of the few places left where marketers can expect a huge TV viewership.

“Due to the low viewership of those different shows, people are becoming less interested in them [them]“As a lot of it becomes virtual, you lose out on some of those big highlights of the year,” said Kelsey Chicking, principal analyst at Forrester.

The unreliability of viewers to tune in to live broadcasts amplifies the magic of the Super Bowl, in that it is perhaps the only major media moment when viewers are prepared – and in many cases, eager – to watch the ads themselves, whether this is during the actual broadcast, via media coverage, or later on YouTube. Chikrig noted that last year people started looking for Super Bowl ads about three weeks before kick-off.

All this free marketing makes it easy to afford the total price of a Super Bowl ad poster. “In fact, the Super Bowl is becoming more efficient based on distributing the additional coverage it achieves through social and digital distribution channels,” said Jeremy Carey, managing director of sports marketing agency Optimum Sports.

fast moving market

There were a few peculiarities of last year’s introduction that helped the NBCU secure early advertising dollars at favorable price points.

For starters, ad dollars freed up again in 2021 after seeing an extended freeze in 2020. With a new level of confidence about weathering the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, marketers were more willing to spend freely and plan ahead in 2021, Chicking said. .

“After two years of practice, brands can gain more confidence browsing ads in them [a] pandemic “.

This, combined with the continued decline in linear television broadcasts – made worse by delays in pandemic-related programming – means audience retention of live broadcasts is on an equal footing. more the value.

“We had lower ratings available in the market,” Jeff Jani, senior vice president of strategic investments at Havas Media, said of the 2021 initial offerings, explaining that many companies were stockpiling “with full marketing budgets to chase.”

Previously, Jani said, marketers typically spread wealth across different platforms, channels, and networks. That wasn’t the case last year. Networks have moved to sell a large portion of their inventory at once, sometimes requiring multi-platform commitments from advertisers. That forced marketers to move a lot of their TV money at once.

That allowed the NBCU to “take advantage of the traditional NFL market, which is a traditional forward market, a traditional calendar market, and try to take control of all those dollars in one market,” Jani said.

Seeing – and selling – double

This year, the NBCU had another card to play in the negotiations: the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which will just begin when the Super Bowl airs. In front of the cameras, the network described this opportunity as a “once in a lifetime”. Behind the scenes, this was also the message for marketers. Jani said the Olympics factored in Super Bowl talks, giving marketers another incentive to spend.

In fact, in 2019, the NBCU swapped out the years of broadcasting the Super Bowl with CBS specifically so that it could sell the Super Bowl and the Olympics together. “NBC has taken the approach that one can build upon the other,” Carey said.

This, of course, fuels the way advertisers justify the price of a Super Bowl poster — by activating weeks or months before the game itself. Super Bowl marketing isn’t about live streaming but more about the investment that happens before, during, and after the game, and NBCU hopes it can absorb much of that additional investment.

This year – at least before the ratings started – it appears to be working. And as the influx of new brands cash continues to fuel the market with last-minute deals, some buyers say the humble Super Bowl location is still a poor way to spend a few million dollars.

“The NFL remains, year after year, the safest bet in terms of reaching a wide audience in a live moment,” Janney said.

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