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February 7, 2006

Super Bowl XL Attracts Extra Large Hype and Advertising Dollars

Chuck and RamaEAU CLAIRE — The XL in the 2006 Super Bowl XL hype signifies far more than 40 years of championship games, say two University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire marketing professors who have been researching Super Bowl advertisements for more than six years.

"The XL also stands for extra large," said Dr. Chuck Tomkovick, a UW-Eau Claire professor of management and marketing whose Super Bowl research has been widely reported in recent years. "Everything about this Super Bowl is extra large — the ads, the parties, the hype, the food — everything."

This year's 30-second Super Bowl advertisements are selling for a staggering $2.5-$2.6 million, an all time high, Tomkovick said, noting that the rates have increased more than 5,000 percent since ads were sold for the first game in 1967.

"With nearly 140 million American viewers and 1 billion viewers worldwide, there is no other media vehicle available that can predictably deliver this size of an American TV audience," Tomkovick said. "An estimated 40 percent of American households watch the Super Bowl and very few people watch it alone. It's been the best-rated TV show every year since 1995."

Using the Super Bowl to debut new, expensive and highly creative commercials has become a tradition, making the day as much about the ads as it is about the game, said Tomkovick, who with Dr. Rama Yelkur, an associate professor of management and marketing at UW-Eau Claire, completed the first Super Bowl advertising effectiveness study of its kind. "Viewers have come to anticipate great things from the commercials they see," he said, noting that this year's ads appear to be extensively using humor again.

This year for the first time, the NFL will sell DVDs of the ads that air during the Super Bowl, providing advertisers with even greater visibility, Yelkur said.

The researchers have found that the extra large advertising costs associated with the Super Bowl pay off for some, with Hollywood's movie industry benefiting the most. Super Bowl advertised movie revenues were vastly superior to non-Super Bowl advertised movie revenues, Yelkur said, noting that ads for six to eight movies are slated for this year's game.

"Advertising new movies continues to be the best investment," Yelkur said. "Most Super Bowl promoted movies break in at No. 1. They have extra large returns and extra large opening weekend audiences."

In addition to movies, products like snack foods and beverages also benefit from Super Bowl advertising, Yelkur said. PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. (maker of Budweiser and Bud Light beer) are examples of businesses that spend millions in Super Bowl ads each year, she said, noting that both will advertise in the Feb. 5 game.

Savvy National Football League marketing has helped build the game into a highly profitable venture for more than just the players and coaches involved, Yelkur said.

"The Super Bowl has evolved from a football game to a made-for-TV mini-selling season sandwiched between after-Christmas sales and Valentine's Day," Yelkur said. "The Super Bowl dominates the American marketing landscape for much of the latter half of January and the first week of February. The actual playing of the game is now a relatively minor aspect of the spectacle."

Super Sunday has become so popular that there are more parties that day — and the use of more personal days the Monday after the game — than any other day during the year in America, Tomkovick said. And only Thanksgiving Day tops the Super Bowl in terms of food consumption during a single day in the United States, he said.

"The beauty of the Super Bowl is that consumers are loyal to the event regardless of who's playing in the game," Tomkovick said. "You don't have to be a fan of the Chicago Bears to watch the Super Bowl if the Bears are in it. The Super Bowl occupies a space in people's minds, the hype catches up and people watch it regardless of who's playing."

As a result, there are "extra large" marketing possibilities for the NFL and countless other businesses across the country, Yelkur said. For example, corporate America is increasingly sponsoring special events related to the Super Bowl, and local grocery stores and stores that sell televisions tie their sales promotions to the game, she said.

"Two weeks is just right to build the event up to a feverish pitch," Yelkur said.

Competition to host a Super Bowl has become more intense as the Super Bowl has evolved from a game to a not-to-be-missed event, Yelkur said. With an estimated 90,000 people traveling to the host city, the economic impact can top more than $400 million, she said.

"The Super Bowl has turned into an American social phenomenon of epic proportions," Tomkovick said. "And there seems to be no end in sight. I think it will be even bigger in the years ahead."

- UW-Eau Claire News Bureau