Justifying a $5 million Super Bowl Commercial

By Stewart Grant
If you are a business owner, would you spend $0.04 per person to reach your target audience for 30 seconds?
For those national advertisers in the United States who are ponying up a record $5 million per 30-second advertisement during this Sunday’s Super Bowl, that’s essentially what they are doing.
Each of the last five Super Bowls has enjoyed U.S. viewership of over 105 million people, with this year’s “Super Bowl 50” expected to reach close to 115 million in American viewers. Much intrigue follows this weekend’s game as legendary quarterback Peyton Manning leads his Denver Broncos against the dominating 6’5” 250-pound quarterback Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers.
For advertisers, the Super Bowl is not like other football games. People aren’t flipping to other channels and they aren’t fast-forwarding through commercials. For the most part, you’ve got 115 million people (with varying degrees of attention spans) watching your 30-second commercial for the cost of $5 million. That’s a cost of roughly 4 cents per ad per viewer.
Expressed that way, the $5 million for a Super Bowl ad isn’t unreasonable, assuming that you are selling a product that appeals to a large and diverse group of people.
To compare, a half-page advertisement in this newspaper this week costs roughly $200. With an expected readership of 5,000, this half-page ad will attract varying degrees of attention for that same cost of 4 cents per person. Funny how that worked out, eh?
In the end, it all comes down to numbers. Who is your target audience? How many people are in that audience? How much do you want to spend to get their attention? Do you want a 30-second Super Bowl commercial or do you want several 30-second Super Bowl commercials? Do you want a half-page advertisement in the local newspaper or do you want to run a series of ads throughout the year?
How much does it cost to reach a given number of viewers or readers? And is that cost-per-person a reasonable investment for your business? Whether it is the Super Bowl or just your local newspaper, the questions are the same.