Analysis & Opinion

Super Bowl XLV: What a difference a year makes

February 1, 2011 MullenLowe

In late December 2009, Mullen was presented with an opportunity to buy one of five remaining national spots for the Super Bowl airing just seven weeks later. The pricing was favorable and the placement opportunities were quite good. We ended up passing for various reasons, and CBS continued the daunting task of trying to sell those final spots up until February 1st, 2010, only six days before the game.

Fast forward to this year’s Super Bowl and by the 2010-2011 Upfronts, 80% of the ads for Super Bowl XLV were already sold! By late October, Fox had completely sold out, significantly earlier than in recent history, with many years not selling out until a week or two before the game. It certainly seems like an indicator that the economy – dare I say it – might be back, but let’s take a deeper look at the brands advertising in this year’s big game.

Of course, the regular players like Anheuser-Busch InBev, PepsiCo, who is back after a one year hiatus, and will show up, but there are some other advertisers that might surprise you. First, there are expected to be at least 20 automotive spots airing this year.  This is nearly one-third of the total spots that will air during the game, and even more surprising, this is up from only six automotive spots in 2009. That is a 233% increase in auto advertisers year-over-year!

Of those 20 auto spots, both BMW and Mercedes will have a presence. This is a major statement as BMW has not purchased a Super Bowl spot in over a decade, and this will be the very first time that Mercedes will advertise during the most watched event on television. One would be hard pressed to believe that these luxury car makers would be throwing upwards of $3 million away on a single television spot if they didn’t think they could get a return on their investment.

Best Buy reportedly signed Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne for an ad. is also returning to the Super Bowl this year, while consumer electronics retailer Best Buy make its debut on the telecast. Perhaps another sign that the economy is improving?

I don’t want to speak too soon here, but if Super Bowl advertising is any indication of the US economy as a whole, I am hopeful. High demand from categories like luxury brands and job search websites may serve as a bellwether that we have turned the corner, and who knows what other brands may come in and surprise us. Are things turning around in 2011?

Tell us who you think wins the Super Bowl advertising showdown on BrandBowl2011.