Gone in 60 seconds: Super Bowl ads cost candidates $10 million per minute

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Hard Rock Stadium prior to Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Jan 28, 2020, Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports.

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg’s campaigns have spent big money on commercial time during the game.  

“It’s around $10 million for 60 seconds,” says Dan Roberts, editor-at-large with Yahoo Finance. “Now the price that Fox is asking for its ads are significantly higher than what CBS asked last season. So it’ll run you around $5.1 to $5.6 million for 30 seconds. And both of these campaigns have confirmed that each one bought 60 seconds.”

According to Roberts, the Trump campaign has said their ad will run early in the game, while the Bloomberg campaign’s “biggest point here is getting under Trump’s skin.” 

Have political ads run in Super Bowls before?

Roberts says candidates have bought ads at the local level, but he’s never seen national, primetime Super Bowl ads for presidential campaigns. 

He notes that in the past, there have been political ads by brands: “Brands either show the American flag, or they're trying to signal something, especially amid the [Colin] Kaepernick-led player protest. … That's why ratings dipped for a while. But in the last two seasons, ratings have bounced back 5% both seasons. And I think that's because the league has really gotten away from politics.” 

Is it ironic for Trump to buy Super Bowl ad time -- even after he dissed the NFL on its ratings? 

Roberts says Trump tweeted angrily and negatively about the NFL 26 times -- from September 2017 to September 2018. 

“That was his pet issue for a full year. And I think it was a way to kind of gin up fervor among his base. He said, you know, the protests are disrespectful. Players are kneeling during the national anthem. They're disrespecting the flag, and the NFL should crack down. He was criticizing the league for not putting a stop to the protests,” says Roberts. “And then in addition, he took the chance to mock the league's dipping ratings. And that had its own irony, because a lot of people thought that the political stuff was what was causing the dipping ratings.”

Roberts says that when player protests later died down, Trump went silent, and ratings bounced back 5% this regular season. 

“So definitely some irony that only about 14 months after he stopped tweeting negatively about the league, here he is spending around $10 million to buy a 60 second Super Bowl ad,” Roberts says. 

Commercials talk social justice

Roberts points out a fascinating trend in the past few years: brands taking a stance on social issues (sometimes consumers pressure them to do so). 

“This season we saw Nike do a pretty big endorsement campaign with Colin Kaepernick, who no longer plays in the league. So I think that brands have decided that they might as well come out and stand for something because they're going to be asked their stance anyway. And so rather than be forced into it, they're being proactive,” Roberts says.

This Super Bowl, Roberts says he thinks we’ll see ads dealing with #MeToo and equal pay.  

“We know that the U.S. women's national soccer team is embroiled in a lawsuit … about gender discrimination and equal pay. And we've seen a lot of ... sports-aligned brands trying to ... show diversity in their advertising. So in that sense, it's political, but a little bit different from the campaign ads,” he says. 

Fox wins?  

According to Roberts, one organization that will probably emerge a winner from this no matter what is Fox. The network says it sold all of its commercial time for the Super Bowl back in November.  

Now Fox is selling ads for pre-game and post-game time slots: $1 or 2 million for 30 seconds. Roberts says he wouldn't be surprised to see political ads pop up there from someone like Andrew Yang or Pete Buttigieg.