Feb 15, 2019

Are Super Bowl Ads Still Worth the Price Tag?

Budweiser 2019 Super Bowl Commercial Wind Energy
Super Bowl viewership has been in gradual decline since 2015 and this year was no exception, with the game attracting the lowest audience since 2008. With some brands creating almost an equal amount of buzz by not advertising this year, it begs a question: if these trends continue, will the day come when a Super Bowl commercial is no longer worth the hefty price tag?

The Super Bowl is traditionally the most-watched television event of the year in the US, but viewership has been in gradual decline since 2015. Considering that this year’s game wasn’t exactly what you’d call action-packed in terms of… well, anything, it’s not surprising that Super Bowl LIII continued this downward trend, with CBS reporting the game attracted only 98.2 million viewers - the lowest since 2008.

Mirroring the decline in viewership, advertising during the big game was also down this year. Both total ad spend and total number of unique advertisers for the Super Bowl saw losses in 2019.


With the continued controversy surrounding the NFL organization, perhaps this is not so surprising. Brands are becoming much more socially and culturally conscious these days, and could be more reticent to tie their name to an event under scrutiny for various social issues. Coca-Cola, who in recent years has become known for creating Super Bowl spots that attempt to deliver powerful social messages, was notably missing from this year’s lineup.

And speaking of brands that didn’t show up – it’s worth noting that several brands, who either chose to sit the sidelines this year or were forced to by CBS declining their ad spot, actually received a fair, if not equal, amount of publicity by not running an ad. With big names like Skittles (a company with an actual NFL sponsorship, bear in mind) and Jeep choosing to go a non-screen route and seeing high returns, these days abstaining from advertising or having your commercial rejected by the network may be a more cost-efficient method for creating buzz around your product.

Additionally, while the Super Bowl is a live event with a captive audience that cannot fast forward, that doesn’t mean those commercials they are watching have an impact on their sentiment towards the advertisers. In a microsurvey of Numerator’s InfoScout OmniPanel , 74 percent of game watchers responded that the commercials they saw had no influence on their opinion of the brand.


All of this leads to a single and, admittedly, loaded question: if these trends continue, will the day come when a Super Bowl commercial is no longer worth the very hefty price tag of $5 million per 30 seconds? Particularly if viewership continues to decline? Ultimately, it's anyone's guess how long Super Bowl advertising will continue to reign supreme, but these factors must be a consideration for future game day advertisers.

Despite all this, for now the Super Bowl remains one of the most important advertising events of the year, and understanding how advertisers performed can help you plan your advertising activity more intelligently.  For additional game day advertising stats, you can download our Super Bowl LIII infographic HERE. You’ll learn key Super Bowl advertising metrics, like:

  • Which brands spent the most on Super Bowl TV advertising this year
  • What were the top five categories advertised during the big game
  • Who advertised within each quarter of the Super Bowl, including halftime

And, as always, reach out to us here or at to find out how Numerator’s advertising solutions can help you strike the right balance between persuading consumers and spending more effectively.