Why Advertisers Are Paying Up to $4 Million for Super Bowl Pre-Game Commercials

One of the biggest moments for advertisers interested in the Super Bowl isn’t actually in the Super Bowl itself.

FanDuel and YouTube are trying to make a big splash in the moments just before the Big Game, hoping that commercials in the last break before kick-off will help them make a marketing point before consumers get deluged with 30-second spots — along with celebrity cameos and pop-song surprises – once the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers start their struggling in earnest.

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The price of a commercial in that pre-kick break has soared to as much as $4 million, according to two people familiar with the matter. To be sure, that’s less than the $6.5 million to $7 million CBS has sought for equivalent time in the game, but nothing to be taken lightly.

The pre-kick has plenty of appeal. “It doesn’t matter how the game does. This is the moment when everyone is tuning in,” says Angela Courtin, global head of brand marketing at YouTube, during an interview. The company is heading into its seventh year of buying a pre-kick perch — which includes a title sponsorship of the half-hour leading into it during which it will tout both YouTube TV and its new rights to NFL Sunday Ticket — ands she says the moment represents “our best investment” in terms of generating return for the company.

TV networks hosting the Super Bowl  typically run hours of pre-game coverage, with ads in the earlier part of the day selling for as little as $100,000 to $200,000, according to executives familiar with negotiations. Pizza Hut typically buys up significant inventory in a bid to get its name in front of viewers eager to order food before kickoff. Indeed, Pizza Hut has revealed it intends to run two new commercials promoting the combo of Hot Honey Pizza and wings during pre-game programming on CBS. Last year, McDonald’s ran a unique pre-game commercial in which Cardi B and Offset unveiled a new meal offer curated by the duo, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Advertisers can make a real statement, however, just before the start of game play. Coca-Cola in 2019 chose to run an ad just before kickoff rather than in the game itself. The spot featured animated characters telling viewers that the company’s flagship drink was for all consumers. It marked the end of an 11-year run in which the soda giant purchased expensive Super Bowl ads to vie with rival Pepsi.

Online-betting company FanDuel expects to run the very last commercial before the official start of Super Bowl LVIII, and will use it for a live ad featuring former NFL great Rob Gronkowski trying to kick a field goal. Viewers will be invited to bet whether or not he was successful, and the results will turn up in an in-game commercial later in the evening.

The moments just before kickoff represent “the most important window of time in our calendar year,” says Andrew Sneyd, FanDuel’s executive vice president of marketing, during an interview. “We have onboarded new customers and taken wagers from existing customers.”

Both FanDuel and YouTube rely on longstanding relationships with the TV networks to get the exact time they want, according to the executives.

FanDuel is a significant buyer of sports ad time on CBS, says Sneyd, and made placement of its ad in the pre-kick moment part of its annual purchasing agreement with the network. YouTube has bought sponsorship of the last full half-hour leading into the NFL extravaganza and a pre-kick moment since striking a deal with NBC ad-sales executive Dan Lovinger before Super Bowl LII, says Courtin. Now, she says, YouTube is considered “endemic” to the time period and enjoys “right of first refusal.”

The company doesn’t seem eager to give it up, she adds: “I will do this partnership as long as this program exists.”

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