Sponsors Rush for Pregame as Fox Sells Out Super Bowl

Advertisers rushed to buy pre-game, post-game and other NFL inventory as Fox posted an early sellout for February’s Super Bowl game.

Fox executive VP for sports sales Seth Winter said in-game spots are sold out as a price that topped out at $5.6 million. An advertiser who had a long-term deal with Fox, paid less than $5 million.

Demand remains high even after the sellouts, and Fox is seeing advertisers jump on available ads in pre- and post-Super Bowl programming, which also offers the opportunity to reach a large market. There is also demand for other playoff and regular season NFL games. Those are well-sold at this point also, Winter said.

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“I think because of how strong NFL ratings have been and the continued diminution of ratings across the entertainment categories, you’ve seen a lot of advertisers finally enter the NFL advertising market because it’s the only place you can find any audience at scale,” said Winter. “It just doesn’t exist elsewhere in ad-supported media.”

This is fairly early for the Super Bowl to sell out. The last couple of years, there were spots available almost until game time. Fox sold out around Halloween a few years back.

Fox might have been able to hold out for higher prices, but Winter said the Super Bowl amounts to a win for both the network and its clients.

“We set these prices very, very early on this year and we didn’t admittedly predict the significant demand for the Super Bowl,” he said. “I thought this was, at the time, a very, very fair price. I’ve always felt the Super Bowl is worth twice what people charge for it.”

The Fox price per spot includes viewers who watch via streaming and in Spanish on Fox Deportes.

Winter said that the entertainment industry, including video streaming services, would be well represented in the game. Other new advertisers have also decided to jump into the Super Bowl.

“What we've seen it over the last month weeks that a lot of non-traditional NFL advertisers are coming into the sport as well as augmenting their previous investments in the sport. It's just again, it's the power of live sports the power of the NFL,” Winter said.

A format change, creating fewer, longer breaks, also increased the demand for what many advertisers regard as the best spots--the first ones in a commercial pod and the last ones in a commercial pod. With fewer of those, advertisers hurried to get money down to capture that premium inventory.

More traditional categories will also have a big presence in the game, including autos, financial services and consumer packaged goods.

There were reports that the president’s re-election campaign was considering buying a Super Bowl spot, but Winter declined to talk about that potential client--or any other client.

Winter said that holding onto a few spots to sell closer to game time wouldn’t have been a good strategy. At that point, a buyer might have expected Fox to accept a lower price in order to extinguish its inventory. Also buying at the last minute would have put pressure on marketers to come up with the kind of creative that’s usually reserved for the Super Bowl.

“Holding onto it wouldn’t make sense for anybody,” Winter said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.