The Cost of Super Bowl Commercials Over the Years

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 3, 2019: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots face the Los Angelas Rams in Super Bowl 53 at Mercedes- Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on February 3, 2019.
Arturo Holmes / Shutterstock.com

Somewhere in the vicinity of 100 million viewers will tune in on Feb. 7 to watch Super Bowl LV, when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Everything about this star-studded matchup is big — big stakes, big hype and big ratings. And don’t forget the big money companies will pay for commercial spots when the game airs on CBS.

In fact, a 30-second commercial spot in Super Bowl LV will cost $5.5 million, Entrepreneur reported. And just as the NFL season was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with stadiums empty or near-empty and players being tested for the virus multiple times per week, the coronavirus has turned Super Bowl ads upside down.

Except for the cost. While some advertisers decided to sit out this game, others have jumped in to take their spot, ready to share their message with the football-watching public. It’s a huge investment, and you won’t believe what you can buy for the price of a halftime ad. Here’s a breakdown of commercial costs.

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Cost of a Super Bowl Commercial Over the Years

When the game made its debut in 1967, a Super Bowl ad could be had for what now seems like the modest price of $42,500. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $336,500 worth of buying power in today’s market, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI inflation calculator. But the big game isn’t content to keep pace with inflation — far from it, in fact. In 2020, FOX Sports raked in $5.6 million per 30-second Super Bowl commercial. That breaks down to $186,666 per second of airtime. You read that right — the cost of an ad in the first Super Bowl couldn’t even buy you one second of airtime at Super Bowl LIV.

With a few exceptions, each year has shown a rise in the cost of a Super Bowl commercial, which broke the $1 million mark in 1995. Here’s an abbreviated look at the cost of ads for the big game through the past 55 years.

Year Cost of a 30-Second Ad
1967 $42,500
1970 $78,200
1975 $107,000
1980 $222,000
1985 $525,000
1990 $700,400
1995 $1.15 million
2000 $2.1 million
2005 $2.4 million
2010 $2.95 million
2015 $4.25 million
2016 $4.8 million
2017 $5.4 million
2018 $5.24 million
2019 $5.2 million
2020 $5.6 million
2021 $5.5 million

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How Brands Benefit From Super Bowl Commercials

The cost of a Super Bowl commercial is staggering, but there’s no bigger audience an advertiser can reach. After Super Bowl LIV last year between the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, viewed by 99.9 million people on television and another 2.2 million who streamed the game, Super Bowls had been responsible for 10 of the 11 most-watched events in television history, CBS Sports reported. Only the series finale of M*A*S*H in 1983 broke into the Super Bowl stratosphere in terms of viewership.

Those numbers just about guarantee that a brand gets seen by the millions of people watching the Super Bowl. And that can provide a marketing boost that lingers well past Super Bowl Sunday, according to a 2018 study.

The study “Super Bowl Ads,” co-authored by Wesley Hartmann of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Daniel Klapper, dean of the School of Business and Economics at Humboldt University Berlin, found that the companies that advertising during the Super Bowl will recognize increased sales during other sporting events, such as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the NBA playoffs and major-league baseball games.

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Their research also showed that when it company is the only advertiser in its category during the Super Bowls, its sales are even higher.

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How the Pandemic Has Affected This Year’s Advertising

Some of the brands with the most iconic ads in Super Bowl history have declined to advertise during Super Bowl LV. Some companies have decided to donate to charitable initiatives that came to the forefront in the wake of a tumultuous 2020 or to spend their money on urgent matters facing the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — such as promoting vaccine awareness.

Among the brands staying on the sidelines with its flagship products are Kia, Hyundai, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Budweiser, AdAge reported. The money that Budweiser parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev would have spent on a Super Bowl commercial instead will be allocated to the Ad Council, which produced public-service announcements detailing the benefits of the vaccine, according to Variety.

Other brands have jumped in to fill the void. AdAge said at least 11 companies will air their first-ever ads, including Draft Kings, online job site Indeed and Scotts Miracle-Gro.

Because of the virus, the game will be played before about 24,700 spectators at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The stadium holds about 66,000 fans, meaning it will be approximately 37% full.

The same probably can be said for gatherings. The number of home parties with guests from outside the immediate family are expected to be vastly reduced, and many jurisdictions have rules in place to limit Super Bowl get-togethers at bars and restaurants.

So with the noise turned down on parties and gatherings, what might that mean for the companies paying big money for their ads? That people could be listening more than ever — and the message should be on target for 2021 America.

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Dan Ketchum contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: To find the cost of Super Bowl commercials over the years, GOBankingRates used Sporting News and Nielsen Media Research data to find the following information for each Super Bowl: (1) game date; (2) network aired; (3) average cost per 30 seconds of ad time; and (4) average number of viewers who watched the game live. All data was collected on and up to date as of Jan. 20, 2021.

Last updated: Feb. 1, 2021

About the Author

Jami Farkas holds a communications degree from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She brings to GOBankingRates experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor — and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate licensing exam in her state and is still weighing whether to take the plunge into selling homes — or just writing about selling homes.

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