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Let's Talk Fast Facts: Super Bowl Ads

February 10th, 2021

By: Camille Rochaix and Claire Tao


On Sunday, like many Americans, we sat down to watch advertising’s biggest moment of the year: the Super Bowl. We knew Super Bowl LV would be unlike any of its predecessors. COVID-19 severely restricted what creative could be produced, and posed the question of whether to recognize and address the difficult realities or to take an escapist route instead.

There has been a debate on whether the Super Bowl advertisements are productive for companies. According to Ad Age, the Super Bowl may create restrictions on marketing goals that would be solved by using marketing budgets on social media platforms such as Facebook. For instance, one main complaint is that unlike social media, advertisers are restricted to one piece of content for lots of target audiences. On social media platforms, targeted advertisements are simpler and much cheaper.


To give you a better understanding of what’s at stake in advertising in the Super Bowl and why it has become so popular in the advertising industry, here is a list of fast facts about this year’s Super Bowl:


Hey, Big Spender

This year’s average Super Bowl ad cost a whopping $5.5M per 30-second spot. While this number is down from $5.6M in 2020, overall trends still show that the price tag of a coveted Super Bowl ad spot has been increasing dramatically. By comparison, a 30-second spot cost about $3M just ten years ago in 2010, and about $2M in 2000. (Fast Company, Business Insider)

All Eyes On Me (Not really...)

Despite the pandemic keeping everyone at home, the event only garnered 96.4 million viewers, the lowest viewership since 2007, down from about 113 million in 2020. (Pro Football Talk) The lack of enthusiasm could be attributed to fewer Super Bowl parties this year due to social distancing guidelines.


Going Once, Going Twice… Sold!

CBS reported that the ad spots were sold about by mid-January 2021. This is slower compared to last year, where ad spots were sold out by thanksgiving (2020). (CNN)


Out with the Old, In with the New

Multiple big-time spenders sat this Superbowl out for various reasons. Many of them, such as Budweiser, Kia, Hyundai, and Avocados of Mexico reasoned that they would donate their marketing budget for charitable causes, such as COVID-19 relief. New companies that joined this year include Reddit, which spent its entire marketing budget on a 5-second advertisement before half-time. (New York Times)

Early Bird Gets The Worm

Many ads were released prior to the super bowl. Example: Tmobile released an advertisement with Tom Brady and Gronkowski about why they really ended up in Tampa Bay. This advertisement was not approved to be shown during the game, but many others that were released early were approved. (Dknation)


Reduce, Reuse & Recycle

Many brands this year reused previous footage to reduce production costs and may be influenced by production costs because of covid-19. Oatly reused an advertisement from 2014 that they had scrapped since they were sued for it by the Swedish Dairy industry. To add to the fuel, two brands, Indeed and Guaranteed Rate, ended up using the same stock footage in their ads. Whoops! (Adweek; USA Today)


A Marketer’s Game

An average NFL football game has only 18 minutes of actual playing time. In 2015, it was calculated that although the Super Bowl was about 3 hours, the actual playing time was only 12:05 minutes. To give perspective, usually, there are around 70 ad spots and the advertisements last for about 45 minutes. (MarketWatch)

*This graphic is from 2015.


Know any more fun facts that we should add? Comment below! Join us on February 18th for our Super Bowl Adversary, where will discuss our favorite and least-favorite ads!

Camille Rochaix is Marketing Society's 2020-2021 Co-Vice President and Founder / Editor of the Marketing Society Blog. Camille is currently a Junior at NYU Stern concentrating in Marketing and minoring in Media, Culture and Communications, and Business of Entertainment, Media & Technology.


Claire Tao is one of Marketing Society's Co-President's for the 2020-2021 school year. She is a senior at NYU Stern, co-concentrating in Marketing and Sustainable Business and minoring in Psychology.


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