The Super Bowl has long been known as the Big Game, but some people out there are treating it like a smaller one.
Advertisers typically plunk down millions of dollars for a 30- or 60-second ad in the Super Bowl telecast on the broadcast network showing the annual NFL extravaganza. This year, for the first time, they have some intriguing alternatives. Some have chosen to run commercials only on Univision, which has the rights to air the game in Spanish. Others are relying on ads that will appear only on kids-cable favorite Nickelodeon, which is running a telecast aimed at families. At least one advertiser, Ally Financial, has placed an ad only in the Paramount+ stream of the Super Bowl, rather than on CBS.
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These niche telecasts “entice brands that either aren’t willing or haven’t the desire to reach that many people and spend that much money in one fell swoop,” says Matt Sweeney, chief investment officer of GroupM U.S., the large media-buying operation owned by WPP. Such “multi-casts” can extend the viewership for a live event, which is where many advertisers still see a chance to nab a giant simultaneous audience in the age of streaming. “With the degradation of linear and continuing ratings declines, the marketplace continues to be about sports and streaming,” Sweeney adds. Advertiser interest in this year’s Super Bowl is up 20%, according to GroupM research.
But the costs to take part can be exorbitant. CBS has sought $6.5 million to $7 million for a 30-second ad in its Feb. 11 broadcast of Super Bowl LVIII, where the Kansas City Chiefs will defend their title against the San Francisco 49ers. In some cases, says a person familiar with the matter, advertisers paid more than $7 million for a spot, and the network is expecting a record haul. The bulk of the CBS buys include ad time on Nickelodeon and Paramount+. Among the advertisers expected are Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Budweiser and Bud Light, Ferrara Candy Co.’s Nerds, Frito Lay’s Doritos and Toyota.
The single-outlet buys seem a little more affordable — if the audience they attract suits the marketing mission. Univision has been seeking $225,000 to $250,000 for a 30-second spot in its broadcast, according to two people familiar with negotiations. Paramount has sought $200,000 to $300,000 for a stand-alone 30 seconds on Nickelodeon, these individuals say, and around $1.5 million for a similar berth on Paramount+.
Experian, the consumer credit-reporting company, has been trying to gain traction with Spanish-speaking consumers for two years, says Steve Hartmann, the company’s VP of consumer marketing. So he was intrigued when he heard last year that Univision was getting a crack at a Spanish broadcast of the game. Univision won’t get the audience that CBS will, he acknowledges, but being in the Spanish-language broadcast “is just bringing some credibility to our brand, and I think that’s important as well.” Experian has taken an ad that was in English and redubbed it with Spanish narration.
About 15 ads on Nickelodeon will be stand-alone, according to people familiar with the matter — the result of commercials for beer, gambling and the like not being appropriate for a younger audience. Many of these ads hail from toy marketers, restaurant chains and manufacturers of consumer packaged goods, according to people familiar with the lineup.
To be sure, most of the hoopla will be attached to the CBS telecast, with expectations of more than 100 million people tuning in. Even the Super Bowl, however, isn’t immune to the new ways people watch TV and the ways that advertisers want to reach them.
Who else is looking at these “alt-casts”? The NFL. The league saw viewership increase this season, and believes the bespoke game formats help expand its fan base. “We think we are reaching a new and different part of our audience,” says Hans Schroeder, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NFL Media. “I think you’ll see us continue to grow and expand what we do” with the concepts.
Indeed, alt-casts are gaining traction across the sports world. At ESPN, Peyton and Eli Manning have pioneered a “Monday Night Football” alternative that offers a friends-at-the-bar atmosphere. Warner Bros. Discovery recently tested a show with famous Hispanic baseball players talking about post-season National League championship games. Disney, which in 2027 will broadcast its first Super Bowl in more than two and a half decades, has been contemplating multiple feeds of the event.
Of course, the idea has its limits. A Spanish-language alternative or a broadcast for kids has some appeal, because both groups are large enough to create a significant viewing audience. Few advertisers would loosen their purse strings to sponsor a Super Bowl feed aimed at, say, left-handed dentists who snack only on organic fruits. But advertisers remain interested in swinging for valuable niches. “Eventually, you can pick the audience you want to run to,” says Experian’s Hartmann. “Even with live sports.”
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