Super Bowl Ads 90% Sold Out

NEW YORK Fox has sold more than 90 percent of its in-game Super Bowl inventory or about 57 of the 63 units, nearly three months before the Feb. 3, 2008 telecast, per sources.

That sales pace stands in stark contrast to the past several years, when the broadcast network airing the Super Bowl scrambled to sell its in-game commercial inventory right up until game time.

Last year, CBS had sold only 42 in-game units by mid-January, and media buyers say it’s been many years since a network has reached a Super Bowl sellout level as early as Fox this year.

The Super Bowl has become a hard sell for all the National Football League TV rights holders over the past few years because of the pressure to produce high-quality creative commercials, on top of the hefty price per 30-second spot, peaking at about $2.7 million this year.

But Fox this year has offered advertisers two innovations as value-added incentives that helped motivate particularly movie companies and automakers to participate in a bigger way, according to Neil Mulcahy, Fox evp, sports.

A deal between Fox and MySpace (both News Corp. companies) will enable in-game Super Bowl advertisers to have their commercials placed on a special Super Bowl site on MySpace, where the advertisers can also add special video, such as extended movie trailers. The MySpace site will be promoted during the Super Bowl telecast to drive viewers to the site.

Fox will also create a red-carpet arrival area for celebrities attending the Super Bowl that will be hosted during the pre-game telecast by American Idol‘s Ryan Seacrest. Movie companies buying in-game Super Bowl spots, as a value added by Fox, will be able to parade its stars of upcoming films on the Red Carpet and be asked a questions by Seacrest.

Mulcahy said the value-added programs have resulted in movie companies significantly increasing their Super Bowl in-game presence. He said the movie category has five times as many spots as last year. The value-added offerings have also been a hit with automakers.

And Mulcahy said interactive companies have also jumped into the game in a bigger way than in recent years. Cars.com announced earlier this month that it would be advertising in the Super Bowl for the first time.

“The interactive category is heating up like it was in the late 1990s and more online players might be among those getting into the Super Bowl game,” said one buyer who did not want to speak for attribution.

While Mulcahy would not name individual advertisers, Mediaweek has learned that media agency OMD, which traditionally had numerous clients in the game, but more recently had many of those sit out, is back with a larger number this year.

Anheuser-Busch, which has a multi-year deal as the exclusive beer advertiser in the Super Bowl, will again run 8-10 in-game spots.

Also working in Fox’s favor has been the tight ad inventory situation in the TV marketplace, particularly on the broadcast entertainment side, that has apparently motivated advertisers to jump in earlier rather than risk being shut out.

Mulcahy said sales for the NFC Championship Game on Fox is also well sold, with only two units left. And Mulcahy said there is only one unit remaining for the 6-6:30 p.m. Super Bowl pre-game show.