Super Bowl Spots Are Still Selling

NEW YORK CBS has sold 65 percent of the available commercial spots for next year’s Super Bowl, according to sources, an impressive amount considering the still-dire economic circumstances. At this time last year, NBC had sold 85 percent of inventory, but CBS has had to battle the full force of the financial crisis that began in September 2008.

CBS has sold approximately 40 30-second spots for Super Bowl XLIV, according to sources, out of a total of 62 on offer.

So far, prices for the upcoming Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 7 in Miami, are in the range of $2.7 million to $2.8 million per spot, which is flat to slightly lower than what NBC achieved for the 2009 telecast, and flat to slightly higher than what Fox did in the 2008 game.

Last year, NBC averaged between $2.8 and $2.9 million per :30, while some advertisers paid $3 million. In 2008, Fox averaged about $2.7 million for spots in the Super Bowl. (Related: AdweekMedia’s Super Bowl XLIII microsite.)

Sources at CBS said pricing for the 2010 game is “in line” with what NBC received last year, but declined to elaborate. Buyers said that was feasible, depending on how “in line” is defined. “Maybe for some of the inventory,” said Larry Novenstern, evp and director of national electronic media at Publicis Groupe’s Optimedia. “But for the 12 advertisers who paid $3 million last year, I don’t think so.”

“I’m very comfortable with where we are right now,” said JoAnn Ross, president of network sales at CBS, who declined to talk specifics. “We’ve had a lot of activity in the last month.”

Indeed, one buyer indicated that CBS is telling potential customers that lead-off spots in pods (known as “A” positions) are fully booked through the first half of the game.

The network has also made significant progress selling the pre-game show, which airs from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sources said most of the so-called “presented by” sponsorships (about a half dozen of them) during that time have been purchased.
Meanwhile, most of the major media shops are close to wrapping up their regular-season NFL deals with NBC, Fox, CBS and ESPN. Regular-season pricing, per the buyers, is said to be down 1 to 3 percent, depending on the deal.

“The NFL marketplace is surprisingly healthy,” said Kevin Collins, svp of national broadcast at Interpublic Group’s Initiative. Top NFL games, he said, deliver a 10-plus household rating week in and week out. “That kind of consistency is hard to get in prime time,” he said.

Strong categories this year are said to include quick-service restaurants, insurance and retail.

Confirmed advertisers in the 2010 Super Bowl include Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has a multi-year deal for Super Bowl spots, as well as and Pepsi.

A-B InBev is usually the largest single advertiser in the game, buying upwards of 10 units throughout the telecast. Reps didn’t return calls seeking comment on 2010 plans.

CareerBuilder is implementing a user-generated component to its Super Bowl marketing plan. The jobs-placement Web site launched a contest inviting consumers to create and submit videos to be considered for incorporation into its ad in the game. The winner gets $100,000 and the runner-up $50,000. “This is part of a new direction CareerBuilder is taking in its marketing strategy that builds on the company’s longtime investments in social media and user-generated content,” the company said in a statement. A rep confirmed that the company would air one spot in the game.

Frank Cooper, CMO of portfolio brands at Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages, confirmed Pepsi’s participation in the 2010 game two weeks ago. Asked for further details last week, a client rep said “it’s still too early” to discuss specifics.

The automobile category remains soft, per sources, given all the troubles that have beset the industry in the last year. But General Motors is still considering advertising in the game, according to a rep there.