Super Bowl XLIII: Fourth and Goal | Adweek Super Bowl XLIII: Fourth and Goal | Adweek
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Super Bowl XLIII: Fourth and Goal

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"There are always a few spots available the Friday before the game, so NBC isn't in a bind," says Gibbs Haljun, managing partner, director of national broadcast, Mediaedge:cia. "We should see things play out along the lines of the first-quarter scatter market, where you have people releasing money much closer to air-date. Anyone still looking to get in are holding their cards and waiting to see what happens."

Come Feb. 1, those marketers that do find themselves with a seat on the 50-yard line will enjoy exposure on television's last great reach vehicle. Last year's game drew a record 97.5 million viewers, per Nielsen ratings data, and the 2007 contest ranked as the third most-watched Super Bowl, serving up some 93 million viewers. And while the advantages of reaching such a mass audience are manifest, with great exposure comes even greater scrutiny.

"If you're advertising in the Super Bowl, you simply cannot afford a misstep," says William Madway, professor of marketing at Villanova School of Business. "There are too many people watching and too much attention being paid afterwards. The game is not a one-shot deal, but is instead the means with which these marketers kick off entire campaigns. If they get it wrong, they put future earnings at risk."

The sheer scale of the event, coupled with the NFL's draconian licensing policies -- the league prohibits its broadcast partners from streaming game highlights on their Web sites -- effectively takes a lot of digital media off the table. Once the final whistle is sounded next Sunday, any association a brand enjoys with the Super Bowl will be purely anecdotal.

"The Super Bowl is really just a one-off, and the opportunities to do the kind of integrations NBC offered during the Summer Olympics just aren't there," says Haljun. "It's such a different model that there's a limit to what clients can do on the digital side."

If marketers' long-tail efforts will have to begin away from the gridiron, NBC has picked up a great deal of business by appealing to the clients' competitive instincts. "Budgeting is often a factor of competitive parity," Madway says.

"This is one reason why the Super Bowl still does well even in a recession. Companies can take advantage of relative scarcity. If there's a lack of voice, they can own the conversation by buying into this one game."

By way of illustration, there is the beleaguered automotive category. On the home front, the Big Three are in no position to plop down a few million dollars for a single 30-second spot. (When you're out there begging for alms, tin cup in hand, you can't exactly justify that sort of promotional outlay.) With GM, Ford and Chrysler out of the picture, foreign automakers like Audi and Hyundai have jumped in with both feet.

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