Super Bowl Ads- Are they worth the price?

The Super Bowl isn’t just known for the actual game, great food and extravagant half time show. Everyone knows that the advertisements in between portions of the game are just as anticipated as the actual game. Weeks leading up to the super bowl people always question which companies will shell out the most money for commercials. And more importantly who will have the best advertisements. Some companies go for funny, others go for serious political issues and then you have some you try to tug at the heart string. Every year there are tons of articles post super bowl about who had the best ad in each of these categories. There are also tons of debates on which companies that really missed the mark.  

Due to the amount of viewers (over 113 million to be exact), the anticipation of great commercials and a guarantee surplus of potential customers, companies have been willing to dish out the big bucks for these ads. This year the price went up to 5 million dollars for thirty seconds. That is over $150,000 per second. But year after year, 2017 included, companies continue to pay for these valuable seconds.

I started wondering is it worth it? While all these people are watching the Super Bowl, they are also on social media. They are constantly trying to multi task by watching the Super Bowl and see what their friends and the world are thinking online. This year there was over 27 million tweets  using the Super Bowl hashtag #SB51. The Super Bowl itself had over 113 million viewers. And this number was not just a fluke.  The viewership of the Super Bowl has continued to rise over the years.


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Some of the ads went viral before they had even aired on TV to these 113 million viewers.  This is due to the increase usage of social media during the Super Bowl For example the Audi ad had millions of views on YouTube before it aired during the Super Bowl. It was already a hit. So I ask why waste the 10 million dollars to air it on the Super Bowl? It doesn’t make sense to me. Is it to rub it in that your company has money?  Yes, the advertisement ended up being seen more because of the Super Bowl but was it worth the money when Audi got countless views for free. The extra money guaranteed it would be viewed by millions. The success of the ad on YouTube was just luck.  The ad being on TV also made it eligible for the company to be written about in all the best commercial articles that were written following the Super Bowl.

Even with that logic I still wondered if it would make sense for companies to just tweet their ads out using the hashtag? Especially since so many viewers are already on social media during the game. If companies switched to posting their commercials solely online during the Super Bowl then even more viewers and individuals would log in online to see these ads. They would be expecting to see these commercials via the hashtag. A problem that could arise if this became the new norm, is site traffic. As seen by Journey 84’s website crash, having a large amount of individuals go to your website at the same time could easily crash it. So with an increase of individuals online, companies would have to make sure their websites, videos and social media feeds could handle the traffic. With an increased amount of companies tweeting their commercials it could make an over crowded social media feed which could result in the right people missing your advertisement. But that already happens on TV. I missed countless of commercials that were deemed “the best”. I saw most of “the best” ones later due to the articles and lists that were on most online sites. If the system switched to companies posting these commercials online then I feel these lists would adjust accordingly and also post the commercials that just aired online.

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The biggest challenge would be this social change. Right now the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl because of the advertisements on the TV. While watching this last Super Bowl, my friends and I talked through the game but would quiet down to watch the commercials. We originally were live streaming the game from the internet so we had no commercials. We sought out the commercials and switched our TV around until we could also see the advertisements. It is part of the Super Bowl culture. Yes the price is ridiculous- and I can only imagine that it will rise- but the commercials make the game. Even the bad commercials get talked about for days, even weeks, after the game is over. So while the cost may be high, I do believe that these advertisements are worth it for the companies. Social media may be an added bonus during the Super Bowl but it will not be replacing the actual television during the game any time soon.




  1. clinecapen · ·

    I agree the expectations around Superbowl commercials drives consumer engagement when otherwise these commercials would go relatively unnoticed. I don’t believe cost will rise due to the culture of Superbowl parties. Very few individuals watch it in a quiet area most congregate at friends and bars and many ads do get missed so unless you have a real hit or a flop that gets picked up by social media your ad will fade into nothingness with no ROI
    The risk is great and this is going to impact cost of the ads.

  2. I dont’ know if they are worth it. But, one thing is for sure that companies are using it as a launching point for a bigger social media driven campaign. So, what used to be commercials just to gain the audience, it seems to be more about using the high profile nature of the event to launch a campaign, regardless of whether the ad is actually seen on TV or not. BUT, the Shields MRI ad was TOTALLY worth whatever they paid for it.

  3. duffyfallon · ·

    I think you hit the nail on the head in saying that the ad’s have become part of the Super Bowl culture. The Super Bowl is the biggest stage in advertising – and for the companies that can afford $5 mil for a 30 second spot, it presents a great opportunity to launch a new campaign, send a message, or just make a creative splash. As you noted It’s not often that people are attentive to commercials like they are in the Super Bowl – so if a brand can come up with some good work, the Super Bowl gives them the spotlight to connect with their audience. But there’s no doubt it’s a gamble – advertising is a weird and tricky industry.

  4. Before watching the last Super Bowl, they were showing the top 10 ads from previous years. It’s interesting to see that even though the ad is overpriced, the ads themselves become so famous that they continue to be viral even years after they were showed for the first time. In my opinion, fortune 100 companies have to be in the Super Bowl since they can take advantage of their economies of scale. This sums of money that are spent on ads represent a barrier to entry for all those small competitors that are not able to do so. I don’t know if the high price is justifiable, but I surely know that they are a good source of entertainment.

  5. I too agree that the commercials are ingrained into the Super Bowl culture, and my friends also hush up during the commercial breaks. Part of me questions if this culture is due to the fact that we grew up watching the Super Bowl with our families before social media sites became popular, and we could only see the best of the best ads when they first aired. And I wonder if younger generations pay attention to commercials during the game, or if they would rather just watch the ads on social media. I also think that commercials might not receive as much buzz if they were only released on social media. A big reason why they receive so many views before the Super Bowl is because they have paid that $5 million dollar price tag, and users know they are “Super Bowl” commercials. People might not have cared as much about the Audi ad on social media if they knew it wasn’t for the Super Bowl.

  6. mollyshields44 · ·

    I think this was a really interesting way to look at these expensive ads. Companies spend so much time, resources, and money and often question whether the advantage of being viewed by millions of people is worth the effort and cost. One of the benefits to having a super bowl ad is that is helps increase brand awareness. You may not buy more of Budweiser after watching the super bowl, but you definitely have a strong association of them with the heartwarming clydesdales commercials. This may drive sales up overtime, which, of course, is very difficult to quantify and justify.

  7. zfarkas17 · ·

    If you asked my mom why she watched the Super Bowl, she would either say because the patriots are in it or because of the ads, and she is not alone in choosing the ads as a major reason. I like that you mentioned the audi ad because I actually know the guy who wrote it and whats interesting is that before the super bowl the comments seemed to be largely negative, people thinking the wage gap doesnt exist, where as after it aired on tv it started getting more positive feedback as well. I think the question of if it is worth it is tough to answer, most of the big companys wont sweat the bill and I imagine use a super bowl ad as more of a bragging right than anything else.

  8. kevinbbarry · ·

    If executed properly, I think the Super Bowl ads are worth it. In an era when many people are trying to fast-forward ads, it is really a unique phenomenon to have such a large audience actively wanting to see advertisements. Also, with the built up hype before and the amount of regional and national newspapers highlighting the best advertisements – you really get an incredible amount of exposure. I think you make some really good points in your blog about having companies being prepared for their strategy (being able to handle the web traffic) and having a clear execution in mind.

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