Cinematography quality, obscure humor, surrealist concepts, vibrant color contrasts, celebrity cameos — these are just a few of the facets driving viewers’ eyes towards the television one Sunday every year.
Yes, the Super Bowl is about football, but the advertisements scattered throughout the game have become a cultural phenomenon in their own right, and a viewing experience designed to go viral before even the internet came along. They've previewed major product releases (See: Apple's Macintosh computer in 1984), spun up controveries (Ram using a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon to sell trucks in 2018) and created defining commercial icons (Budweiser's Clydesdales, since the 1990s).
But with greater focus and attention, so too have come higher and higher price tags for companies to try their hands at capturing the big moment. Here's a look at what companies are paying this year, and how much they've shelled out each year throughout history, plus a rundown of the ads you'll be seeing this year.
Check out the humble beginnings to Super Bowl ads, why they are so important to business conglomerates and how ad prices fluctuated throughout the years:
Why are Super Bowl ads so expensive?
There is a simple answer to this question, and I think we all can guess what that is: viewership.
Since the Super Bowl is one of the most-watched broadcasts on television every year, there is no better platform to reveal fresh advertisements to the world. The game is broadcast on over 225 different television stations, aired on about 450 radio stations and viewed by approximately 180 countries across the globe. The game is appealing to all.
In 2021, Super Bowl LV was viewed by 91.63 million people, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers triumphed over the Kansas City Chiefs. However, the record for the most-watched Super Bowl remains in the hands of Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. During this New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks showdown, the televised event received 114.44 million viewers. With these numbers insinuating wide demographics, it would be of a company’s best interest to publicize their avant-garde ventures.
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But it doesn’t stop there. Most often, these commercials are then publicized even further following the actual Super Bowl. Morning shows, late-night shows, social media storms, published content on various news sites and, of course, buzz by word of mouth ultimately lead to more distribution of information. Companies immediately receive the gain when their products are popularized within the seconds following the ad’s airtime.
Were there advertisements in the early Super Bowls?
Yes, advertisements were absolutely present early on. And though Super Bowl ads boom with razzmatazz today, they made an impression back then, too:
Some of the most memorable commercials aired before the 21st century. For instance, “Hey Kid, Catch!” from Coca-Cola aired in 1979 during Super Bowl XIII. The ad portrays Pittsburgh’s Joe Greene in the locker room interacting with a young fan who offers him an ice cold bottle of Coke.
Another admired ad presented Ridley Scott’s rendition of the popular dystopian George Orwell novel “1984” in an Apple commercial introducing the Macintosh for Super Bowl XVIII in 1984.
What was the cost of a commercial during the first Super Bowl ever played?
Super Bowl I, which took place in 1967, featured the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs. The event aired solely on two networks: NBC and CBS.
At the time, NBC charged companies $75,000 for a 60-second spot and CBS charged $85,000. For a 30-second spot, the networks pressed $42,000.
How have Super Bowls ads changed over the years?
These were the prices for a 30-second commercial in recent Super Bowl history (in reverse chronological order):
2021: $5.5 million
2020: $5.6 million
2019: $5.3 million
2018: $5.2 million
2017: $5 million
2016: $4.5 million
2015: $4.25 million
And now, a snapshot of history:
2000: $2.1 million
1995: $1.15 million
1967 (Super Bowl I): $37,500/$42,500 (NBC/CBS)
How much are 2022 Super Bowl ads?
According to an NBC executive this fall, NBC was selling 2022 Super Bowl ads for record deals, closing at $6.5 million per 30-second commercial. This is an increase from the $5.5 million asked for in 2021.
In recent weeks, Bloomberg and other media outlets have reported some ads sold for as much as $7 million.
And another kind of record will take place as well. Considering this is the first Super Bowl set to overlap with the Winter Olympics, viewers from all over the world will be tuning in to not one, but two, major televised events.