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Advertising Super Bowl 2014: Much Closer than the Game that Spawned It

Posted on Date: Feb 3, 2014


Franchisors Buy 52.8% of Paid Super Bowl Ads 

Super Bowl XLVIII may have been a blowout football game, but the 2014 Advertising Super Bowl was a much closer contest.  Companies engaged in franchising continued to dominate the advertising buys for the most viewed television program of the year, purchasing 52.8% of paid spots, as compared to 47.2% of paid by all non-franchisor advertisers.

Marking the 25th time in the past 26 years that franchisors dominated ad spending at the Super Bowl, there were a calculated 109 paid 30 second segments shown during the big game.  Franchisors purchased 57.5 thirty second spots; non-franchisors in all categories purchased 51.5 spots.  At Halftime the score was tied at 28 spots for each side.  The difference maker in 2014 was that several franchisors, including Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Chrysler, Ford and GM all purchased longer spots of between 1 to 2 minutes, and the cumulative total of advertising time, rather than number of ads, made the difference in the score.

Franchisors spent an estimated $230 million, just $24 million more than the $206 million for non-franchisors.  During Super Bowl XLVII, companies engaged in franchising outspent all other combined enterprises by an estimated record $56 million dollars!

These numbers are even more dramatic when 22 Fox network promotional spots and 6 NFL spots are added to the mix.  Both FOX and the NFL have franchised affiliates, and if these 26 ads is factored in the totals, franchisors placed 63% (86 spots) of some 136 total ads that aired during the 4-hour game broadcast.  (These totals include local ads run in San Diego County, and results may vary in other local communities).

According to American Association of Franchisees and Dealers (AAFD) Chairman Robert Purvin, who launched the organization’s Advertising Super Bowl survey 26 years ago, “Super Bowl advertising continues to demonstrate the power of franchising. How else can small business owners afford to share their messages with more than 100 million households at one time?”

FOX reportedly charged a record average price of $4 million per 30-second spot ($133,333) per second).  The higher cost didn’t seem to impact advertiser demand as FOX reported it sold out the available national network spots.  (Each local network affiliate franchise sold about 30 local spots).  The total number of spots played during the game garnered an estimated $400 million dollars.

Yet for a single 30-second spot that cost $4 million, the advertising cost for a ubiquitous franchise such as Subway (who aired just one spot this year) breaks down to just $160 per store when divided among the approximate 25,000 US restaurants in the chain. “The collective marketing power among franchised businesses is formidable,” adds Purvin.

Among companies that market through franchising, companies that manufacture products that are distributed through independent dealer networks (called ‘product franchisors’ in the trade) continued to dominate ad buys.  A robust 42 ads were placed by companies that sell cars, beverages, and insurance or other services through independent networks.

Business format franchisors –  those businesses that consumers traditionally associate with franchising – accounted for only 5 commercials, including spots from McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway, and CarMax, and regional entries (on the West Coast where the survey was conducted) from Jack in the Box.  The business format segment was even more active in the pre- and post-game broadcasts.

Budweiser again led all advertisers with 5 minutes of air time (the equivalent of about 10 spots), After Budweiser, only 6 advertisers ran more than 1 or 2 commercial spots. GM and Ford were both more active than in recent years and the longest add of 2 minutes was run by Chrysler. Maserati, Kia, Honda, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Jeep, and Toyota all ran spots.  In the soft drink category, both Coke and Pepsi were active with multiple spots.  Pepsi also ran two spots for its non-franchised Doritos brand.

Manufacturer related ads led the non-franchised segment with 13.5 spots, down 5from 2013.  Electronics and food producers and highly-regarded spots for Cheerios, Doritos, Chobari and Danon Greek Yogurt and Soda Stream all ran food related ads. Entertainment advertisers, primarily motion picture promos and video games, slid to second place with 5 ads. Retailers ran 4 ads this year, up dramatically from the one ad run in 2013, but well below the 9 spots placed in 2008.  On the flip side, on-line retailers held steady, with 7 spots run by,,, and newcomers, and Beats Music.

During the game approximately 50 different companies advertised.  In addition, there were 2 public service announcements.

This year’s crop of ads was generally praised in comparison to recent years – with some notable winners (and no obvious losers).  Two of the most memorable ads (both franchise related) tended to the touching and inspirational rather than the humorous: Chrysler and Coca-Cola tributes to American culture and grit, at least two tributes to American soldiers, and yet another classic ad from Budweiser connecting a Clydesdale and a puppy who bond.

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