Two of the Oscars’ Biggest Sponsors Have Decided Not to Return This Year

Rivals have already swooped in

After a lengthy stretch during which they served as exclusive category sponsors of the Academy Awards, Hyundai and Coca-Cola have decided to leave the red carpet behind.

The automaker and soft drink giant told Adweek that they would not be buying time in this year’s Oscars gala, which is set to air Sunday, March 2 on ABC.

While the departure of the two sponsors is noteworthy—the official auto advertiser of the Academy Awards since 2009, top-spending Hyundai invested north of $12 million in last year’s broadcast, while eight-year backer Coca-Cola accounted for the third-largest commitment ($8.5 million)—the categories were snapped up in short order. According to several sources, General Motors has assumed the exclusive automaker position, while Pepsi reclaimed the nonalcoholic beverage sponsorship from its biggest rival. Pepsi is priming the pump for its first Oscars appearance since 2005 with a promotion for Regal Hollywood Theaters.

ABC declined to comment on the shifting Oscars roster.

According to media buyers familiar with the situation, ABC sold out earlier than it ever had before, commanding an average unit price of around $1.85 million per 30-second spot. The last chunk of inventory was claimed just before Halloween.

If these are perhaps the most significant defections since L’Oréal Paris abandoned ship in 2009, not all of ABC’s blue-chip clients have bowed out of Hollywood’s annual celebration of itself. JCPenney confirmed that it would return as the official retail sponsor of the Academy Awards, marking its 13th year as a supporter of the Oscars.

“We plan to introduce new creative, and we have about five or six spots that we will air during the show,” a JCPenney executive said.

In a nifty bit of synergy, Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres is also the spokesperson for JCPenney. While the comic isn’t likely to appear in any ads during the broadcast, Penney is prepping integrations around The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the days leading up to the big broadcast.

The biggest TV event not affiliated with the National Football League (last year’s show averaged 40.3 million viewers and a 26.6 household rating), the Oscars also are one of the hottest tickets in town. ABC caps the ad load at around 9.25 minutes per hour, thereby offering nearly half the inventory available in the average prime-time show.

Principles of supply and demand aside, the audience composition goes a long way toward explaining why the broadcast is the second most expensive behind the Super Bowl. Per Nielsen, 62 percent of Oscars viewers are women, the majority of whom are well-educated and affluent.