The Super Bowl is truly an American cultural phenomenon. 111.9 million people watched the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers to take home the crown on Sunday, making it the third highest-rated television event in U.S. history. Aside from the pure astronomical numbers, viewers also vary demographically – in 2015, nearly 40 percent of affluent Americans and 35 million females tuned. And perhaps most importantly, 20 percent of the highly coveted millennial audience watched football’s biggest night.
Outside of the touchdowns and the interceptions, the halftime show and the endless snacks, why do millions of people watch the Super Bowl each year? One word: Ads.
When Super Bowl I aired in 1967, it cost $37,500 to run a 30-second commercial during game time. As televisions became staples in the homes of Americans and viewership of the big game increased each year, football gained national popularity. The cost of a spot was $1.9 million by the year 2000, and today, Super Bowl advertising is reserved for brands who can afford to pay $4.5 million for a half-a-minute ad.
The numbers alone can cause advertisers to have a field day. But what else makes them cough up millions for a simple TV commercial? Engagement.
Although many may think otherwise, the Super Bowl is actually the exception – not the norm – when it comes to television ad viewing and engagement. The biggest football game of the year is one of the only remaining times that people actually seek out the ads. In fact, in many cases, they look forward to them.
Famous Super Bowl commercials like the Budweiser lost puppy ad, Volkswagen’s “the force” commercial or Cheerios’ “Gracie” spot are remembered by viewers years after airing. Outside of well-known brands, companies like Avocados From Mexico splurged for an ad during the game and have since seen increased brand awareness and sales. Clearly, Super Bowl advertising works. It works because the ads are believable, they are well-done and the audiences are engaged with the content.
Some may find it hard to believe that there are other times – and other mediums – in which audiences are highly engaged with ads. Look no further than your daily newspaper.
According to a Nielsen study, newspaper media – in print and online – scored the highest out of all media (including television, radio and social media) when it came to overall consumer engagement. Specifically, newspaper media is also the most trusted source for advertising, and delivered a 12 percent larger advertising-engaged audience than the overall average for all other media.
On a typical day, most people would immediately change the channel when their favorite program ended and the commercials started rolling. For television, it takes one really special event to make Americans pay attention to ads. When you look at newspaper media, we have engaged audiences daily – without all of the fanfare. We don’t need it. Our readers are more engaged with our content and our ads than they are with any other type of media. Think of the opportunity this creates. We just have to be able to tap into it and provide them with the information and the advertisements they seek.
This could be our Super Bowl moment.
David Chavern is former President & CEO of the News/Media Alliance. Chavern has 30 years of experience in executive strategic and operational roles. Prior to the Alliance, he completed a decade-long tenure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.