For the 2022 Super Bowl NBC reportedly sold their commercial ad slots for the eye-watering record of $7 million for a 30-second slot. A staggering 27% increase from the $5.5 million price tag in 2021, but was it worth it? And could this budget have been better spent elsewhere? 

According to recent Google data, YouTube reaches more 18 to 49-year-olds in an average week than all US cable TV networks combined. The Super Bowl isn’t your average week, but we all know reach doesn’t always lead to action. So, in a battle of ROI, who wins?

What does $7 million get you?

For a 30-second Super Bowl slot, your $7 million could get you in front of 100 million global viewers. Although this figure is lower than the 2015 Super Bowl’s 114 million viewers, it was still one of the most-watched sporting events of all time. 

Who views the ad?

In terms of pure viewer numbers the Super Bowl and YouTube are relatively level pegging on paper, but let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Do 100 million people view every TV commercial? Unlikely. It’s safe to assume commercial breaks are not religiously watched by even the most hardcore Super Bowl fans. For example, no Super Bowl would be complete without a classic Budweiser ad, but in 2019 only 1 million US televisions tuned in to see Budweiser’s: Wind Never Felt Better campaign. And Every Super Bowl since 2011 (bar one) has brought in over 100 million viewers. 

Let’s take the $7 million and use this as YouTube ad spend. At Reflect Digital, we have been able to achieve targeted YouTube views for as little as $0.03 per view, but the industry average is $0.07 per view. Your $7 million would therefore easily achieve 100 million views. Or 230 million views for a Reflect Digital client…just saying… 

Although the network will be able to provide demographic and audience data to a certain extent, there is no way to precisely measure which viewers saw which ads and their demographics. 

It’s also worth noting that 9% of viewers had no interest in the game and only watched the halftime show, with most households tuning in for an average of 2 out of the 4 hours. Of course, we can’t discount the social sharing element, which continues long after the Super Bowl is over, with the best ads receiving millions of watches and shares. 

With YouTube everything is trackable. If you have paid for 100 million 30 second views, that’s what you get. Your views are targeted towards the specific audiences and demographics you want to see your ad. What’s more YouTube’s PPV (pay per view) model means any skip before the 30-second mark isn’t charged. So if the viewer doesn’t watch the whole 30 seconds of your ad, you don’t pay. It also means you benefit from a huge number of free views; users who have watched 5-29 seconds but have still been exposed to your brand (even on a subconscious level).

K Mart: Ship My Pants

The TV vs YouTube debate is nothing new and the question of Super Bowl ad worth is a subject I have been speaking on for a long time. 2013 saw the creation of K Mart’s masterpiece; Ship My Pants. This 31-second work of art is almost 10 years old but is still a prime example of the power of online video marketing. The ad went viral within days of being uploaded with 15 million views in 8 days with 160 million social impressions. That may not seem like a lot by today’s standards, but remember this was 2013, a time where YouTube advertising was still quite fresh. It resulted in $1.4 in sales that month and a 300% increase in monthly sales. These results were reportedly 30 times more than the uptake produced by the Super Bowl

If you haven’t seen it, you’re welcome.

Key Takeaways

If you find yourself in the fortunate position of wondering where to put your $7 million for the best ROI, YouTube advertising is your best bet. From larger reach to targeting and tracking, the competition is won hands down. However, if it's prestige you’re after, the Super Bowl cannot be beaten. The most expensive commercial placements in the world, at the most-watched sporting event in the world. An appearance in this space says a lot about the company’s success and influence. And as we’ve seen with brands such as K Mart, effective memorable ads keep customers talking for years. 

Interested in leveraging YouTube ads as part of your next campaign, we'd LOVE to help you reach your audience and deliver some serious ROI.


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