Audience Insights: “Super” Consistent Cable Home to 96% of TV Sports Advertising Opportunities

01.31.2022 David Gustafson

For football fans, this year’s NFL Playoffs have already been super. First, there was the dramatic divisional weekend (Jan. 22-23) that produced four consecutive fantastic finishes, including the unanticipated early exits for superstar quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Then, not to be outdone, the conference championship games on Jan. 30 brought two more nailbiters, including upstart Cincinnati’s surprising victory over the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs in Kansas City.

And so, after an eight-day stretch that produced two overtime games, five games won on the final play, and six games decided by six points or less, the Super Bowl matchup is set for Sunday, Feb. 13. The Cincinnati Bengals will head west to battle the Los Angeles Rams on the Rams’ home turf – SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. Super Bowl LVI will cap off a memorable season that brought an extra week of games and overall renewed interest from TV viewers. Nationally, ESPN’s Monday Night Football averaged nearly 14.2 million viewers for its 19-game slate, scoring the network’s highest regular-season audience numbers in more than a decade.

All the attention around the NFL adds up to the Super Bowl once again being the biggest single event on television, sports or otherwise. This year’s game is expected to draw in the neighborhood of 100 million viewers, and that means, as usual, advertisers are taking notice. According to Business Insider, NBC is pulling in $6.5 million for 30 seconds of commercial time during the game, which is expected draw interest from Budweiser, Crypto.com, Doritos, and several other nationally renowned brands.

No doubt the Super Bowl can mean unprecedented exposure for that subset of TV advertisers who decide to put on their marketing helmets and take the field. In fact, by one measure, nearly one in four viewers say that Super Bowl ads are the most important part of the game. But with a high cost-of-entry and limited commercial availability over the roughly four-hour telecast, the Super Bowl becomes a highly exclusive advertising club.

According to Cox Media analysis of Kantar data, 48 different national advertisers spent an estimated $412.5 million airing commercials last year during Super Bowl LV on CBS. That represents less than 1.3% of the more than 3,800 total national TV sports advertisers last year. Said another way, nearly 99% of TV sports advertisers did not advertise during the Super Bowl – and that list includes some reasonably recognizable brands, such as Apple, Geico, and Progressive, to name a few.

The Super Bowl becomes still more exclusive when it comes to the actual minutes of commercial time available. Cox Media’s review of Kantar figures reveals that last year’s Super Bowl advertisers combined for just over 41 minutes of total commercial time during the game. (If you’re keeping score, that translates to almost $166,000 per second of commercial time.) Even for the advertisers in the game, though, the Super Bowl minutes represented only 0.04% of their total TV sports commercial time last year. When expanded to include total TV sports ad time across all national advertisers, there were almost 24,000 “non-Super” sports commercial minutes available for every one minute of Super Bowl time available.  

Beyond football, that means advertising opportunities in auto racing, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, soccer, tennis – as well as curling and other cold-weather favorites during the 2022 Winter Olympics, which run Feb. 4-20. And unlike this year’s NFL playoff games, the battle for commercial opportunities during sports programming is not close. According to Kantar data, Cable networks were home to 96% of all TV sports commercial minutes last year!

In the end, if your local marketing efforts include joining the exclusive group of advertisers appearing during this year’s Super Bowl, enjoy every second of the exposure. And regardless of your game-day strategy, contact Cox Media to discuss a customized and consistent game plan that can deliver your message to sports fans throughout every season.

NOTE: Kantar-related statements are based on Cox Media analysis of Dec. 2020-Nov. 2021 Broadcast calendar data; national advertisers airing during Sports programming across Cable TV and Broadcast TV networks. Contact Cox Media for details.  

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About the Author

David Gustafson

As Cox Media’s Director of Linear & Audience Research, David plays a key role in the company’s usage and interpretation of TV audience data. With more than two decades of industry experience, David currently is a member of the Nielsen Local Policy Guidelines Committee (PGC) and VAB Measurement Innovation Task Force, as well as client advisor to Comscore. Known as “The Professor,” David’s articles combine his passion for writing with a penchant for concisely explaining complex topics.

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