This Sunday in Detroit, when the
Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XL, an estimated
130 million people will settle into their favourite armchairs to watch the
action on TV. But as many as half of those people will not be tuning in for the game. They’ll be watching for the ads.

Given the state of advertising on
Australian television it’s hard to believe anyone would watch TV specifically
for the ads, but companies like Budweiser spend huge sums on producing high
quality ads, and just as much on securing a slot during the Superbowl to show

30 seconds during this year’s Superbowl
will set advertisers back an estimated $US2.5 million (almost $3.3 million).
If that sounds a little expensive, the Winter Olympics will only cost you
roughly $US750,000 (just under a million Aussie dollars) for a similar spot. A
bargain in anyone’s language.

While the NFL isn’t too
concerned about the Winter Olympics hurting advertising sales, Visa, an NFL
sponsor, is one company that has dropped the big game for the Olympics.

“We know the Olympics
is the highest prime-time rated show every night for 17 days,” said Michael
Rolnick, director of corporate relations for Visa USA, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“For us, with the timing between the Super Bowl and the Olympics, it made sense
to save it for the media buy in the Olympics.”

McDonald’s has followed
suit, as have DHL, who said: “The Super Bowl didn’t fit into our budget.” But
there are plenty of mega-companies eager to fill their places. Last year, men’s
deodorant brand Degree (owned by Unilever) joined the telecast and rolled out
plenty of online advertising in support of it: sales grew by 35% last
year, and they say it’s thanks to the Superbowl.

Consequently, the NFL are well aware that
the Superbowl is a television event as much as a sporting event, one they say
is “deeply enriched with commercials” (they even manage to keep a straight face
while saying it). Along with host broadcaster ABC, you don’t imagine there
would be too many pangs of conscience over advertising fees. After all, the
money for the Rolling Stones’ half-time show has to come from somewhere.