The phrase “going, going, gone” is associated with baseball rather than football, but Fox Broadcasting is telling advertisers that commercial time during Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 is, finally, gone.
Because the Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for advertising as well as football, the pace of sales of commercial time for ads shown during each game is closely watched by Madison Avenue. To be sold out just after Thanksgiving is an above-average result, meaning demand for spots was strong; when demand is weak, as during recessions, for instance, the network broadcasting the Super Bowl may have spots left to sell until the weekend of the game.
“The Super Bowl is done,” Neil Mulcahy, executive vice president for sales at Fox Sports, part of 21st Century Fox, said in a phone interview.
When asked which categories helped achieve the sellout, Mulcahy cited automobiles, saying: “Certainly, the autos embraced it. All the car companies are back, and GM is back.”
His reference was to a decision by General Motors, which said in August that it would return as a sponsor after sitting out Super Bowl XLVII this year.
Mulcahy declined to list specific advertisers beyond that, citing the tradition that it is left to the buyers of commercial time to discuss their purchases rather than to the sellers. The other automakers that have said so far that they plan to advertise during Super Bowl XLVIII are Hyundai, Jaguar and Kia.
The advertisers in other categories that have announced they are buying commercials include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Butterfinger, Dannon Oikos yogurt, Doritos, GoDaddy, Intuit, SodaStream and Wonderful pistachios.
In recent weeks, Fox Sports executives have described the commercial inventory for the game as virtually sold out, practically sold out and almost sold out. Back in September, for example, when announcing a Super Bowl ad contest, the executives said the game was about 95 percent sold.
“It’s a fluid process,” Mulcahy said.
Demand among potential sponsors did not seem to be affected much by the rates Fox is charging. Earlier estimates were that the price tag was around $4 million for each 30 seconds of commercial time in the game, but there are indications that some advertisers are paying in a range between $4 million and $4.5 million.
Mulcahy and Marla Newman, senior vice president for digital ad sales at Fox Sports, said they still had spots available during pregame and postgame programming on Fox Broadcasting; during programming related to the Super Bowl on a new cable channel, Fox Sports 1; and in the live stream of the Super Bowl that is to be available on foxsports.com and on tablets.
Newman said that the auto category was also strong in digital advertising, along with categories like consumer packaged goods, mobile devices and insurance.
Both she and Mulcahy said they believed that the fact the Super Bowl will be played for the first time in the metropolitan New York area may be encouraging ad sales, pointing to the many special events and promotions that are scheduled to begin the Monday before the game and extend through the postgame period.
Various 21st Century Fox properties are planning special programming to take advantage of the novelty of the location; for instance, Mulcahy said, Fox Sports 1; WNYW, Channel 5, the Fox Broadcasting station in New York; and the Fox News cable channel will present shows from Times Square.
And “each night at 8 p.m., there will be a roadblock on all the Fox properties,” he added, with content with Super Bowl themes. (A roadblock is a media term meaning that the same ad, announcement or show appears across multiple media outlets at the same time.)
Another reason that the commercial time during Super Bowl XLVIII is already sold out could be the additional planning required by sponsors to coordinate on platforms like social media the promotional campaigns related to their Super Bowl spots.
In social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs, advertisers can tease, preview and build interest in their in-game ads weeks or months ahead of time rather than waiting until much closer to the game as they would have years ago.
“The beauty of the Super Bowl now,” Mulcahy said, is that advertisers “know in May they want to be there and build their marketing programs” early.