Gee, all you Super Bowl ads, the NFL loves you, man 58 spots sold, fetching at least $1 million each



Football isn't all that's showcased in the Super Bowl.

TV viewers have come to expect that advertisers will shell out big dollars to display their best work there, too.

This year will be no different, advertisers say.

Tune in to the Dallas Cowboys-Pittsburgh Steelers game Jan. 28, and you'll see legendary actor Charlton Heston try to pull off a Bud Light commercial with Johnny, the young man who can't seem to get any Bud Light, but has the nation saying, "I love you, man!"

Then there's Mail Boxes Etc., which will do a spot with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, and the Pink Panther, who will pitch Owens-Corning insulation.

Those advertisers are not alone. Shortly after the Cowboys and Steelers battled their way to the big game a week ago yesterday, NBC, the network airing the Super Bowl, announced that all 58 commercial spots during the game have been sold at a record $1 million or more each.

Those prices might be dear. But for the exposure during one of the most-watched events on TV (NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol is predicting that Super Bowl XXX will draw more than 100 million U.S. viewers), advertisers are willing to pay premiums for spots before, during and after the game.

"The Super Bowl provides the single largest television audience of the year," said Michele Hanna, director of advertising for the National Pork Producers Council, which returns to the Super Bowl for a second straight year.

During the 1995 game, the council launched its "Taste What's Next" campaign. This year, the group will build on the campaign with a 30-second spot and two 15-second ones. They are set to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" and feature a montage of American scenes with pork as the centerpiece.

"Pork and the Super Bowl are a perfect match," Ms. Hanna said.

More and more advertisers apparently believe that the game can sell their products, too.

According to Competitive Media Reporting in New York, recently released figures show that ad spending during the Super Bowl increased 41 percent between 1993 and last year, when advertisers paid $69.7 million for 31 minutes of time during the game. NBC has not disclosed its total take for this year's game.

But to put the minimum $1 million-per-slot price into context with normal network programming, the industry publication Advertising Age recently reported that a 30-second spot during the "Mad About You" prime-time Sunday sitcom can run advertisers about $275,000.

Super Bowl advertisers are putting their money at risk. Last year, advertisers paid an average $1 million per 30-second spot, but the game, in which the San Francisco 49ers whipped the San Diego Chargers, drew one of the smallest TV audiences in Super Bowl history.

If the game becomes a blowout early, many viewers might not be around to see late commercials.

Still, several major advertisers return to the big game year after year.

Anheuser-Busch, one of the largest Super Bowl advertisers, put out its lineup this week for this year's game.

Besides serving up its annual Bud Bowl, the St. Louis brewer has purchased four minutes in six slots during the game, to include a Clydesdales football spot, the Budweiser frogs, the Bud Light spot featuring Mr. Heston and Johnny, a second Bud Light spot, a Bud Ice spot titled "Penguins," and a spot that launches Anheuser-Busch's marketing program as a sponsor of the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Anheuser-Busch was a surprise hit of the Super Bowl last year when it debuted its frogs spot, with the frogs croaking the Budweiser name.

Other big Super Bowl advertisers Pepsi and Frito-Lay indicated that they have huge plans for this year's game, but they are saying little about them thus far.

Brad Bradshaw, a Pepsi spokesman in New York, said the soft-drink company has purchased four minutes during the game. He did say one commercial will feature Cowboys cornerback and Pepsi pitchman Deion Sanders, with cartoon character Wile E. Coyote.

Last year, Pepsi introduced new technology in a Super Bowl ad (( that seemingly allowed a little boy to suck himself into a Pepsi bottle.

"Interesting technology is being applied," Mr. Bradshaw said of this year's commercials. "I can't divulge what that is, but it is in true Pepsi style."

Lynn Markley, a Frito-Lay spokeswoman in Plano, Texas, declined to discuss the company's Super Bowl plans, other than to say, "We're going to be there."

But not all companies that have advertised during the Super Bowl feel the need to return every year.

For example, VF Corp., parent of Lee Apparel, is a past Super Bowl advertiser but is opting out this year in favor of the Olympics, said Ellen Rodhe, vice president of marketing at Lee.

The company spent more than $3 million during the Super Bowl last year to position its men's and women's jeans, and the move paid off, Ms. Rodhe said.

"Now that we've gotten the product placed, we've chosen to communicate on a year-round basis," Ms. Rodhe said.

But as companies pull out, others are right there to jump in.

Owens-Corning, the Toledo, Ohio, manufacturer of building and glass materials, will make a Super Bowl debut during the pre-game and the fourth quarter, using the air time to kick off the company's 1996 homebuilding materials advertising campaign.

In the fully animated spots, the company's first since 1992, the Pink Panther returns to sell Owens-Corning pink insulation.

"People love watching the Pink Panther," said Jim Schmiedeskamp, marketing communications manager for Owens-Corning.

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