Super Bowl Ad Prices & Restrictions

[1]

If you were not one of the 70,000 fans in attendance at this year’s Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, you were likely one of the estimated 101.1 million television viewers who tuned in via NBC to watch the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals on a late fourth-quarter drive.[2] These 101.1 million television viewers represented a 6% increase over the 95.2 million television viewers who saw the Tampa Bay Bucs become crowned world champions in 2021.[3]

However, television ratings alone do not account for every viewer, as Super Bowl LVI was also streamed in its entirety on NBC’s streaming platform Paramount+. NBC reported that an additional 11.2 million viewers streamed this year’s Super Bowl via Paramount+, putting the total viewership at 112.3 million viewers.[4] In total, the viewership for television and streaming combined was up 12.6% compared to last year.[5]

This increase in total viewership reflects the Super Bowl’s dominant position as an audience magnet compared to other sports and entertainment programming. Accordingly, advertisers are willing to pay top dollar for an ad slot because nothing in the media world comes close to getting the exposure that the Super Bowl can. This has become increasingly important as today’s media landscape continues to grow more fragmented due to the abundance of streaming platforms and social media.[6] Despite this increasingly decentralized media consumption,, the Super Bowl continues to be one of the bedrocks for traditional television networks’ ratings and advertisers.[7]

But, exactly how much money did advertisers pay to get one of their commercials in this year’s Super Bowl? According to NBC Sports Group, commercial slots for the Super Bowl began selling at $6.5 million for just 30-seconds of airtime.[8] Multiple 30-second slots ended up selling for a record $7 million each as NBC approached its capacity for in-game commercial slots.[9] That $7 million price tag is a 27% increase from the $5.5 million CBS commanded per ad slot for Super Bowl LV last year during the pandemic, a slight dip from the $5.6 million rates Fox charged for Super Bowl LIV in 2019.[10]

Although this year recorded the highest Super Bowl ad price in NFL history, the price of a Super Bowl ad has increased every year since the first Super Bowl in 1967. At the first Super Bowl, a commercial cost $37,000.[11] A decade later, the price jumped to $125,000, then to $600,000 in 1986, followed by $1,200,0000 in 1996.[12] Through the 2000s, prices continued to climb into the millions, reaching $3,800,000 in 2012.[13] Now, a decade later, in 2022, commercial slots started at $6,500,000.

The companies willing to spend millions of dollars during the Super Bowl on advertising campaigns were major sportsbook operators and cannabis companies.

For years, the NFL and other major sports leagues opposed legalized sports betting, in large part because of the possibility of cheating and match-fixing.[14] But, now, the Super Bowl has become one of the marquee events for the sports betting industry. The NFL has partnered with seven sportsbook operators, allowing them to buy in-game ads during this Super Bowl.[15] For example, Caesars and DraftKings aired national in-game commercials, while FanDuel ran pregame and local in-game ads.[16] However, to avoid oversaturation of the game with sports betting ads or risk alienating fans who still oppose it, the NFL placed a limit on the total number of sports betting ads broadcasted during the Super Bowl to six – one per quarter, one during the pregame, and one at halftime.[17]

Yet, while sportsbook operators received six ad slots, cannabis companies received zero. Despite a widely popular halftime show performance by the infamous cannabis connoisseur Snoop Dogg, there were no ads for cannabis products in this year’s Super Bowl. Even though cannabis is legal in the majority of US states, and public support for legal weed has never been higher, it remains illegal at the federal level in the US.[18] As a result, cannabis products have been placed on the NFL’s restricted ad list, which applies not only to ads in the Super Bowl, but to all NFL games throughout the season.[19] However, this year’s Super Bowl featured ads from plenty of companies that were on the restricted ad list just a few years ago, including hard liquors and sportsbook operators.[20] In fact, NBC reported that Super Bowl LVI featured more than 30 new advertisers, about 40% of all advertisers.[21] But a cannabis company was not one of them.

Ultimately, it likely will not be long before the NFL revises its restricted ad list once again to allow for cannabis product ads.[22] Until then, television networks will continue to broadcast the Super Bowl, adhering to the NFL’s restricted ad list, to reap the monetary benefits from such a lucrative deal. Last year, the Super Bowl reportedly earned CBS $434.5 million in ad revenue.[23] This year, NBC will likely make over $500 million in ad revenue; that is more in-game ad revenue than the World Series and the NBA finals and second only to the Olympic Games, which take place over weeks, compared to a single evening.[24]


[1] https://www.kplctv.com/2022/02/11/poll-whos-going-win-super-bowl-lvi/

[2] https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33295986/super-bowl-lvi-estimated-1011-million-tv-viewers-2021

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/11/media/super-bowl-commercials-nbc/index.html

[7] Id.

[8] https://www.newsweek.com/how-much-do-super-bowl-ads-cost-commercials-nbc-1677924

[9] https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/11/media/super-bowl-commercials-nbc/index.html

[10] https://www.adweek.com/commerce/nbcuniversal-sells-out-super-bowl-56-ads/

[11] https://www.newsweek.com/how-much-do-super-bowl-ads-cost-commercials-nbc-1677924

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] https://www.npr.org/2022/02/11/1079880190/super-bowl-betting

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/15/sports/football/nfl-betting-ads.html

[18] https://www.theverge.com/2022/2/8/22911200/super-bowl-ads-cannabis-weed

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] https://www.adweek.com/commerce/nbcuniversal-sells-out-super-bowl-56-ads/

[22] For more on cannabis and the NFL, please see Darby Daly’s, the Co-President of the Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Law Society, recent post “NFL to Study the Incorporation of Cannabis, CBD on Pain Management.” https://ublawsportsforum.com/2022/02/09/nfl-to-study-the-incorporation-of-cannabis-cbd-on-pain-management/

[23] https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/11/media/super-bowl-commercials-nbc/index.html

[24] Id.

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