Big Tent Ad Opportunities: Higher Rates, Fewer Viewers?



MIAMI — Come Sunday, at least one National Football League fan will be enjoying the “Big Game” at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, a gritty city equidistant to Fort Lauderdale and South Beach, after paying $9,000 for a prized ticket.

Millions of others will be tuned to FOX O&Os and affiliates, watching the Kansas City Chiefs (the team FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will be rooting for) battle the San Francisco 49ers.

FOX can only hope the matchup will draw more viewers than in recent years. As the CMO of a global data science and marketing technology company notes, the Super Bowl isn’t as super of a draw as it once was. Yet, that’s not stopped networks and broadcast media companies from hiking ad rates.

According to Kantar Media, the 2020 Super Bowl LIV telecast is fetching $5.6 million for a 30-second in-game spot.

This represents a 107% increase from the $2.7 million for a :30 in 2008.

For Aaron Goldman, CMO of Chicago-based 4C, there’s a bit of a disconnect. That’s because the Super Bowl has seen viewership and ratings declines since 2016.

If ratings are down, how can ad rates be going up?

That’s a complex answer, one driven by cross-platform engagement more than ever before, and even moreso on a local level.

With social media and digital opportunities, an advertiser can blanket the consumer by reaching them on all screens. This, in essence, is what TV and radio companies should be striving for in the final hours leading up to Sunday’s Big Game, should ad avails be present or even in abundance.

In Goldman’s view, post-game cross-media engagement could potentially reap big money for broadcast media — if done efficiently.

“It would seem to me that there is always this halo effect, and when you think about how that translates down, it is going to be different by region,” Goldman says when asked if social, digital and on-air marketing plans will prove successful on a national level. “In markets where fan attention is going to vary based on who is playing the game, you will see some differences. When the local spots air, one thing we tend to notice is that you get a spike in cross-screen activity.”


It is no secret that Goldman’s job is to bring more marketers into the digital and social fold. But, that shouldn’t come to the detriment of broadcast radio and TV. For “tent pole” events such as the Super Bowl — as well as the Academy Awards and other must-see live programming — a mix of actions designed as a consumer lure can also prove profit-worthy for TV and radio stations big and small.

“Every station has a social account to hit the eyeballs that move from screen to screen, capturing them on social media — and it is something we encourage to advertisers to participate on,” Goldman says.

The result is a 360-degree advertising approach that many broadcast media companies may not consider, in particular due to staff reductions or limited resources.

Goldman’s response? Fix that. now.

“Pull the intern out of the truck and have them man the Twitter account,” Goldman implores. “It’s a short amount of time and you can make something out of it.” He cites a recent case study that shows additional amplification compared to general run-of schedule for a series of brands. “Even if it is minuscule, you can find a way to measure and package it,” Goldman says.

How so? Bringing advertisers who may be gun shy about a TV ad alone could benefit from an omnichannel effort directly under your station’s control — providing an ultra-premium plus never before made available to them.

“As the simple scarcity of inventory around the game continues to command a premium, the impetus is put on marketers to better understand and drive ROI from these massive expenditures,” Goldman says.

But, what about alternative programming — including the “Puppy Bowl” and non-game related choices? What can a network do, regardless of “shoulder programming” options for advertisers, to cash in when a tent pole event is being televised?

Goldman again suggests the incorporation of digital and social efforts.

“Scripted [programming] is fragmenting, and is spread across a number of different platforms, making it hard to reaggregate that audience,” Goldman says. “As such, scarcity of massive tune-in behavior is driving rates.”

This, in an nutshell, explains why events including the Super Bowl and Academy Awards are commanding high ad rates. “The environment is making it more valuable to brands and marketers and networks can charge more against it, even though overall viewership is going down,” Goldman says.

For Goldman and 4C, two key takeaways regarding Super Bowl LIV ad trends were clear:

  • Proper orchestration of a campaign requires sophistication in both data science and audience understanding in order to engage viewers before, during and after the game.
  • While TV is being supplanted by OTT, CTV and various other screens, live events such as those broadcast on network or cable channels continue to deliver strong ROI for advertisers, but only if those advertisers develop an air-tight, omnichannel strategy and execution around those TV buys.

“Ultimately it is about an opportunity create momentum,” he says. “As a one-off, yes it can serve some value, and you can justify the investment.”

What are Goldman’s client’s discussing?

For large advertisers, the discussion is “more about how they are going to play it than if they are going to play it, and how big,” he notes.

This leads Goldman to share how, with respect to the ad’s theme and content, a chilling effect has landed at the Big Game. “It used to be the place for shock and awe,” he says. Today, however, “Anything you can say that can be interpreted as offensive or non-politically correct will be considered as such.”

This has resulted in a “play it safe” attitude punctuated by the suspension of a three-part Planters campaign featuring the reportedly violent death of longtime brand mascot Mr. Peanut. The ads were pulled out of respect for the families of the late Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and five others tragically killed Sunday in a Camarillo, Calif., helicopter crash.

For smaller advertisers, a media mix that includes radio and its social components could present an opportunity.

All it takes is a little pre-game planning, and a digitally savvy playbook.

4C delivers self-service software for brands to execute video-centric marketing and optimize business outcomes. Brands, global agencies, and media owners can access the company’s Scope by 4C platform to identify their most valuable consumers and reach them across channels and devices. With nearly $2 billion in annualized advertising spend running through Scope, 4C enables unified audiences, activation, and analytics on linear television, social media, over-the-top content, and digital commerce.

4C was founded in 2011 and is headquartered in Chicago. Visit for more information.

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