Are Super Bowl Commercials Worth The Investment?

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Frank Germann (pictured on the left) and Dom Caristi (pictured on the right) say the "big game" could make sense for advertisers willing to pay up. Frank Germann (pictured on the left) and Dom Caristi (pictured on the right) say the "big game" could make sense for advertisers willing to pay up.

Two professors at universities in Indiana agree the hefty price tag for a Super Bowl commercial can be worth it. A 30-second spot during this year's 50th anniversary game will cost an estimated $5 million. University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business Assistant Professor of Marketing Frank Germann and Ball State University Telecommunications Professor Dom Caristi say the audience's perception of the game is important.

Germann says more than 100 million people are expected to watch the Super Bowl and on a cost per rating point basis, $5 million adds up. "Bottom line: When one looks at the cost of a Super Bowl ad based on cost per thousand impressions, it’s actually not bad at all. On top of that, people actually pay attention to Super Bowl ads and there is a lot of hype about them before and after the game. There are a few caveats, of course. Importantly, most of the 100 million plus people who watch the Super Bowl should be part of the company’s target customer segment - if not, the ad is probably not going to be effective from a return on investment point of view. In other words, if only 10 million of the folks who watch the Super Bowl would be interested in buying your advertised product, Super Bowl ads are likely not worth it. But if you make Coke or beer or something that most people who watch the Super Bowl would be interested in, and if you have the resources to pay for the ads, putting together a Super Bowl ad might be a great idea."

Caristi agrees, calling it reasonable "because people actually want to see the commercials." He adds that it is one of the few remaining "water cooler" viewing events in the American TV landscape. "Unlike normal sports viewing, the room actually gets quiet during the commercials at Super Bowl parties so people can hear the spots. What's more, the commercials get added bang for the buck by being tweeted, posted and shared through multiple social media platforms - for which the advertiser pays nothing. Dozens of websites from Advertising Age to USA Today collect the spots for later viewing - again at no cost to advertisers - broadening their reach and making them available before and long after their original airing. Advertisers know this and work hard to put their most creative, entertaining commercials during this event. Though some commercials may not be as successful as companies hoped, others have the potential to be seen for years to come. People still talk about Apple's '1984' ad."

Super Bowl 50 will air this year on CBS. Kickoff is Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

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