On 25th November, Fox announced they had sold all their commercial inventory space two months ahead of Super Bowl 54. This year’s “Big Game” – the pinnacle of TV advertisement – will feature the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers in Miami this Sunday (2nd February).

For America’s TV event of the year a 30 second slot now costs $5.6 million on Fox – the quick sell-out was a significant moment for the Super Bowl and the NFL more widely. When CBS hosted the game last year, they sought between $5.1 million and $5.3 million for a slot on their inventory yet didn’t sell out until two days before the game aired. Plus, no network has declared a sell-out of its inventory well ahead of the game since 2013, suggesting that advertisers have found new appeal in the Super Bowl. So, why has the 2020 instalment attracted brands in a way the previous editions could not?

Chiefly, National Football League ratings have taken somewhat of an upward turn in the past year and a half. For now, controversies surrounding head injuries, player welfare and the fallout from National Anthem protests seem to have passed,  meaning audiences and brands have returned, investing in the NFL and its showpiece event. 

This year the NFL and Fox are cutting the number of ad breaks to four per quarter from five (the norm over the past 30 years) meaning they will run longer but less often. With fewer much prized first and last slots to commercial breaks, brands will no doubt have been encouraged to invest early to secure premium spots on Fox’s inventory.

The Super Bowl is no longer a standalone event for brands, it’s an advertisement season to rival any of the holidays. It is seen as a foundation for a broader advertising strategy, with the ability to harness social media and TV in the build-up to the game, as well as afterwards . With commercial teasers being released every day, advertising agencies are hoping to give enough away to get people excited for what’s become known as “that Super Bowl moment”. Take Mountain Dew, they released a 10-second teaser that somehow tied its zero sugar product to The Shining. The campaign has also involved star Tracee Ellis Ross posting on Instagram a short behind-the-scenes of her, practicing a recreation of one of the film’s iconic scenes.

“You want to generate buzz … we have a teaser for Cool Ranch Doritos that rivals any spot in the Super Bowl … it features Sam Elliot reciting the lyrics to [2019 award winning] ‘Old Town Road’”, says Margaret Johnson, ‘Goodby’s’ chief creative officer. The teaser alone has amassed around 7.3 million hits on YouTube since its release two weeks ago. Brands want consumers to enjoy the teasers so much that they will stop and look out for their slot during the game.

On the field, fans will be hoping Super Bowl 54 lives up to its billing as a classic – especially after 2019’s low scoring anti-climax. The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t won the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy since Super Bowl 4 in 1969, having not appeared in the final for 50 years. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers, the most successful team of the ‘80s, haven’t won since 1994. Sunday’s game will also feature some of the new generation of stars such as the Chief’s exciting Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the youngest league MVP in modern history and 49ers’ Tight End George Kittle who broke the record for receiving yards in a single season by a Tight End in 2018. The history and talent on show alone is sure to draw eyeballs, and with NFL ratings bouncing back up, advertisers are making sure that they are also part of the action.

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