By on November 2, 2016

christopher-walken-adds-pizzazz-to-kia-motors-super-bowl-commercial-for-the-all-new-2016-optima-midsize-sedan-4357f5e2d2e092f6

Normally at this time of year, between Halloween and Thanksgiving, we start hearing about automakers’ television commercials for the upcoming Super Bowl. For decades, the National Football League’s championship game has been the marquee venue for car companies trying to make big impressions on consumers.

As Super Bowl ads became an item of interest all on their own, many automobile manufacturers have crafted entire campaigns around their commercials for the “big game”, with teaser ads leading up to the event and long form and other alternate versions released once the primary ads are broadcast on Super Sunday.

While it’s the highlight of American football, automakers from around the world pony up big bucks to display their wares before more than 100 million viewers. This year, though, with television ratings for the NFL in serious decline, it remains to be seen if the Super Bowl will continue to attract automakers’ advertising dollars, marks, pounds, lira, yen, yuan, and won.

It’s hard to turn on a sports radio station or read a sports related website without being reminded that NFL ratings are down. There are many reasons postulated for the ratings drop.

Some say league expansion and enforced parity has made the quality of play mediocre. Some say it’s due to overexposure, with games expanded from Sundays only to Monday nights, and then Thursday nights. The Thursday night games this year have been routinely bad, and the decreased quality of play has been attributed to players not getting enough time to rest and heal from injuries. Now the league also has three games a year in London, England, broadcast on Sunday mornings (U.S. time), and it has expanded its “international series” to include a game in Mexico City this year as well.

In addition to possible saturation, there’s also competition from within the sport of football. With a playoff system now in place, there is renewed interest in college football, whose games are often high-scoring affairs compared to the currently defensively dominated NFL. It’s easier to be enthusiastic rooting for your favorite college or alma mater, accepting the pretense of amateur athletics, than to root for a bunch of free agents who’d play somewhere else for more money.

A frequent complaint is that the professional football league itself has changed the game for the worse. Commercial interruptions during the games become counterproductive, as people start tuning out because of the breaks in action. Poor officiating, video review challenges, and lots of penalties have slowed the game down. There’s something like eight minutes of action in a typical game broadcast. Then there’s are things like “the process” rule, where a catch is no longer a catch.

Concerns about injuries, particularly head injuries and concussions, have lead to rule changes eliminating some of the most violent hits. While there are more concussions in amateur soccer than in amateur football, concerns about head injuries have caused parents to reconsider their sons’ involvement in high school and college football, which is bound to have an effect on attitudes towards football in general. At the same time, eliminating violent hits and changing rules to protect quarterbacks and receivers means losing those fans who watch for neck-snapping collisions.

There’s also the factor of fantasy football leagues, which move interest from watching teams to checking the stats of individual players. It’s possible that in its desire to appeal to fantasy football fans with the NFL’s Redzone phone app — which frenetically shows every touchdown of every game — the league has harmed its main revenue-generating product: live games on television.

Speaking of revenue, ESPN, one of the principal sources of the NFL’s money, lost a record 621,000 subscribers last month — part of a general decline in cable television subscriptions as viewers choose other options driven by their personal electronic devices. ESPN’s problems are a double dose of trouble for the NFL. Every subscriber lost is one less pair of eyeballs watching NFL games on ESPN, and if the network loses enough subscribers, they won’t be able to pay the billions they owe the NFL. ESPN and the NFL are currently in the middle of an eight-year deal that pays the league $15.2 billion for the rights to broadcast games.

Since surveys show that a third or more of NFL fans are not happy with San Francision 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest the U.S. national anthem over the treatment of blacks in America, it’s impossible to dismiss that as a factor in the ratings decline. (Though it’s clearly only one of a number of causes and likely not the main driver of the drop.)

Speaking of fans’ disaffection with the behavior of NFL players, one also can’t discount the cumulative affect of issues like arrests, drug and PED suspensions and domestic violence. All those pink ribbons for breast cancer won’t bring in more female fans if the league is seen as coddling players who beat women.

It might be tempting to say the NFL ratings decline is due to a decline in interest in big sports in general. After all, NASCAR’s attendance and TV numbers have been going down for almost a decade. However, interest in basketball and baseball seems to be up. This past Sunday Night Football game was outdrawn in the ratings by the Cubs and Indians in baseball’s World Series.

Change is a constant. Changes are taking place in football, broadcasting and in the way cars and trucks are marketed. Car companies openly say this or that big auto show is of no value to them, and it hasn’t been uncommon in recent years for major manufacturers to skip the North American International Auto Show in Detroit or other top tier shows. Like signing off on million dollar displays at auto shows, the decision to advertise or not during the Super Bowl is made at a fairly high level. You can be sure that the chief marketing officers of all major car companies are paying close attention to the NFL’s television ratings.

As it happens, automakers’ advertising during the Super Bowl has been declining for the last three years. In 2014, there were 13.5 minutes of commercials for 11 car brands, costing their companies $113.4 million. In 2015, those figures dropped to nine brands, 11 minutes of commercials and $96.8 million, and the past February’s broadcast had seven brands spending $90 million on nine minutes of ads.

It won’t be surprising if we see fewer car ads during the 2017 Super Bowl than we have in recent memory.

[Image Source: Kia Motors]

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71 Comments on “Will Automakers Abandon Super Bowl Ads As NFL Ratings Drop?...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Short term? No. Long term? Most likely.

    -Get rid of Thursday, its stupid and the players hate it
    -Stop the pink crap. Emasculation doesn’t help the sport.
    -Put MNF back on regular television, cable blows.
    -Stop making major changes to rules every season or so.
    -Force Goodell to step down, he’s a dick. Put some NFL lifer in charge, if only as a paper tiger (Favre?) and handle the real business behind the scenes.
    -Put teeth into punishment, i.e. Patriot’s repeat cheating equates to a lifetime ban.

    • 0 avatar
      April S

      Oh yes, the NFL has been emasculated over breast cancer awareness.

      Thanks for the laugh.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Yes. I’m glad you feel cancer is a laughing matter.

        • 0 avatar
          April S

          I never said it was.
          Only you would think that.

          P.S. Time to schedule a boob squish.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Men get breast cancer too.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Please feel free to bring those boobs by anytime for a squish.

            @Lou

            Indeed, and all cancers are a terrible thing but it does nothing for the sport to highlight only one type of cancer, especially one which strikes females 99% of the time (or thereabouts) in a male sport. If say a player, coach, or team for whatever reason started a grassroots effort, a la Kaepernick, and it grew then I would have a completely different perspective. What happened is from the top down the league was “pinkwashed”:

            http://butterbeliever.com/i-will-not-be-pinkwashed-why-i-do-not-support-susan-g-komen-for-the-cure/

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Tell me more about how a 6’2″ 220 lb NFL running back is less masculine because he’s wearing pink cleats.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        -Put teeth into punishment, i.e. Patriot’s repeat cheating equates to a lifetime ban.

        I sure don’t want to watch Brady anymore, what an effin’ whiner.

        And hey, Bill Belichick, why weren’t you smart enough to cheat when you coached the team I love?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        If you can’t see it for yourself then nothing I can say will help you do so.

      • 0 avatar
        bwell

        Why just breast cancer? Why not raise money for any of other diseases? Breast cancer kills about 40,000 people per year in the US, while lung cancer kills about 160,000, and heart disease kills over 600,000. Could it be a cynical attempt to appeal to female viewers? Of course not.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Testicular cancer, we can find an appropriate color of jock strap for the boys to wear and BINGO!

        • 0 avatar
          April S

          It’s because most lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. A reckless, voluntary choice. Same with heart disease. Drinking too much booze, overeating plus the aforementioned smoking.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            April S – 80-90% of lung cancer is caused by smoking. Radon gas is #2. Most heart attack patients are also smokers. Not all are obese but diet is a factor. Smoking and alcohol abuse is more prevalent in mouth, throat and stomach cancers.

          • 0 avatar
            markf

            So they deserve it and therefore no resources should be expended, only Breast Cancer, cause women? Couldn’t you say the same about HIV/AIDS? It’s 100% preventable as an STD so why spend money fighting it?

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Agreed, but there are folks who get it despite never having touched a cigarette in their lives, nor spent a great deal of time around smokers. My brother’s mother-in-law being an example. She’s doing as well as can be expected (and her results so far have gone to the “miraculous” side).

            Food for thought. :-)

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @markf – no one “deserves” an heart attack or cancer. I was providing some added information. There isn’t much one can do to “get” breast cancer other than heredity and that is something one has no control over.
            Life style choices account for the vast majority of illnesses we suffer from.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      The pink stuff doesn’t emasculate the sport. Just like me wearing a pink dress shirt or polo shirt doesn’t emasculate me. It’s just a color.

      What is offensive is the NFL using the pink jerseys and other pink merchandise to make a bunch of money and not really funnel money back into the cause. At the same time, they won’t let DeAngelo Williams wear pink cleats the entire season to honor his mother, who passed away from breast cancer, but they will use her likeness to promote their brand and charities.

      Just remember that ONLY 8%!!!! of NFL branded pink merchandise goes to breast cancer research.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Well said.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        Nah breaux, you’re a puss if you wear pink. REAL men talk about emasculation on the internet and HATE the color pink, because they’re MEN. YEAH!

        No girls allowed in the treehouse!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Nice additional points.

      • 0 avatar
        otaku

        I was addicted to pro football for the last twenty-two seasons, but with all the recent scandals demonstrating just how hopelessly corrupt the NFL has become, I’ve decided to simply boycott the entire thing altogether and quit cold turkey watching anything related to this sorry sport.

        While the courts may have no reservations with further enabling that deceitful, arrogant, power-hungry, unscrupulous, rotten scumbag fascist dictator fraud of a commissioner, I refuse to do anything that puts even more money in his undeserving pockets or increases his already criminally excessive levels of influence. To summarize, Goddell and his worthless lapdogs at ESPN can go self-fornicate.

        It seems extremely hypocritical for the league to pretend as though they actually give a damn about women’s health and welfare issues with all of the pink colored merchandise they shamelessly promote, while at the same time doing whatever they could to repeatedly bury evidence of abuse against women committed by players in Baltimore and New York.

        If viewers are truly interested in increasing breast cancer awareness or supporting an organization that actually channels its donations toward the fields of treatment/research (versus the lofty goals of adding new wings onto Goddell’s various McMansions, funding multi-million dollar, rigged investigations proving he had no knowledge of video submitted directly to his office, or payoffs to the Flat Earth Society to generate reports definitively stating that air pressure remains unaffected by temperature) then I would suggest contributing to something slightly less shady than the NFL, like perhaps the American Cancer Society.

        Either that or consider just sending a blank check to Volkswagen’s Diesel division.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I’m sure 28-Cars-Later thinks 8% is too high a price to pay after being emasculated by wearing pink shoes.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Oooo, the Patriots cheating thing. This ought to be good. Go on.

      Taping opposition practices? Done by many pro and college teams.
      Deflate gate? Show me the evidence. I said THE EVIDENCE. And if it was such a concern, why isn’t football like every other sport in where the officials handle or inspect the balls/pucks/etc before and during the game?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Taping opposition practices?”

        So only the Pats get nailed on it yet everyone does it?

        “Deflate gate?”

        If this wasn’t a big deal, why was everyone so tight lipped about it from the word go? Why did Brady destroy his phone? Why did a suspension in a private league make it to Federal court?

        The whole scandal was kinda stupid but evidently there are rules in the league which were broken. By suspending Brady I suppose they were trying to hold him accountable, but clearly he wasn’t the only one involved. Good as they are, the team showed poor conduct in the case.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Deflate gate? Show me the evidence. I said THE EVIDENCE.”

        wow. Just imagine how much we could accomplish if people would care this deeply about stuff which actually *matters* instead of a stupid game (which is rapidly approaching the baseball standard of “20 minutes of activity packed into 2-1/2 hours”) run by a massive corporation which exists only to vacuum money out of your wallets.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      A few of your points I can absolutely get behind:

      -Get rid of Thursday, its stupid and the players hate it

      100% agreement. It competes with college that night, limiting the only national TV exposure that some lesser conference schools (American, MW, MAC, etc) can get. Plus NFL on thursday is a garbage game 99% of the time.

      -Put MNF back on regular television, cable blows.

      This is as big of a slap to the face to the average fan as moving the College National Championship off broadcast to ESPN. Do it.

      -Force Goodell to step down.

      I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t agree with you, though i’m not sure the prescription is a lifer.

      -Put teeth into punishment, i.e. Patriot’s repeat cheating equates to a lifetime ban.

      I think they’ve been pretty aggressive with the punishments actually. Who are they banning? Brady? Ball boy? Bellichek? The whole franchise?

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I don’t think so, the Super Bowl is kind of its own thing. In the US, there are many Super Bowl parties, I can’t say that for many other sporting events.

    NASCAR’s ratings are pretty much sucking mud as well. If you’re interested in the particulars, check out Jayski.com.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Over the past decade I’ve watched the commercials rapidly decline in quality, becoming annoying and dumbed down to the point that even mouth breathers can see the punchline before the joke starts, if there is one.

    I don’t watch the superbowl anymore, since I and many Americans used to only watch for the commercials. I’ll go to a friend’s party and I may check the scores on my phone, but especially with what’s been going on, the NFL is the Titanic currently impaling itself on an iceberg.

    Also helps that I’m part of a generation that sees no need to waste $100/month on cable. I don’t have any time to watch TV now that I work, but any shows I do need to see, like Grand Tour, I can watch for free online, on my schedule, with little more than a few seconds browsing a google search.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      IBx1 – you make a very valid point. We are no longer confined to watching a sporting event or show at a predetermined time and spot. We want to watch when we want and were we want. That impacts “fixed date” events. Another point is this, what does it cost to buy tickets to an NFL game?

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Agreed on the cable!

        Mine just vaulted $10/mo. for seemingly no reason!

        This from a local provider who used to be a tremendous value, and who could write the training manual for OUTSTANDING “customer service!”

        Sadly no longer the case on either front!

  • avatar
    yamahog

    At the margin, I think some automakers will forego the superbowl (or do a Volvo and try to generate buzz on social platforms for less money) and others will hopefully negotiate quite hard on the rates. It makes sense for Toyota / Ford / Chevy to advertise. But once you start getting into premium brands or smaller brands, I think it’s a lot harder to justify. (Aside from chest thumping a la the Hyundai Genesis ads or Chrysler ads.)

    But the superbowl is an expensive thing to get wrong. BMW spent a massive amount of money on olympic ads – something to the tune of $100 per vehicle sold in America in 2015 (IIRC). I have to believe that putting an extra $50 into the quality of the cars (either interior or mechanical) would do more for the brand.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    I think you’re way underestimating the impact of the national anthem fiasco.

    • 0 avatar

      As I said, you can’t dismiss it as a factor but there are so many other valid reasons for the decline that I’m reluctant to say that it’s *the* primary cause.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Bull$hit. If you are that bothered by it go watch the United Soccer.

        Although I agree with one late night commentator who said: “If kneeling players is depressing ratings then don’t turn the camera on the players during the anthem.”

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The saturation of everything on TV has gotten maddening. I’m glad I watch very little TV and am even avoiding the nightly crime round-ups – er – I mean “news”.

    People are being fed bread & circuses and flat-out lies as to politics and are mostly ignorant of what’s really happening in the world, and professional sports are among the least important things. I generally do like baseball, however…

    I’m waiting for the whole lousy system to implode.

    I’ll be happy to see most of the professional sports to go down the drain.

  • avatar
    NoDoors

    Touchdown! Yay! Extra point.
    Commercial
    Kickoff that’s a touchback.
    Commercial
    Three and out. Punt
    Commercial
    Pass to a receiver. Was that a catch or not? Review
    Commercial

    Personally the above makes me check my phone or do something else. I’ll get the scores regardless. I used to watch pre-game, sometimes flipping back and forth between two channels, then the early game and the late afternoon game. Now? I’d rather watch Premier League soccer. No incessant commercial breaks.

    Personally, if anything keeps that “Real People, Not Actors” crap off my screen I’m happy.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I prefer listening on the radio for some stuff — UM football in particular!

      Now if I could only find the broadcast in the Toledo area — an impossibility since the 50,000-watt blowtorch of the Great Lakes, WJR 760 out of Detroit, went to MSU Spartan football many years ago!

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @NoDoors
    Watched the first game for the 2013 Season in a Salt Lake City bar.It took at least 15 mins before anything happened.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Historical nit: Deutschmarks and Lira have long been replaced by Euros.

    As for Super Bowl car ads, I doubt they have much effect on sales. They probably benefit the advertisers next to the YouTube reruns, more than the mfr.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Die, Football, Die!

    Buncha wild-ass, tatted-up mutants with the career longevity of a mayfly and nasty-ass medusa hair writhing outta their helmets to obscure their names.

    We used to send the military out to invade and kill indigenes that looked like modern NFL players.

    Go, Pack, Go!

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Thanks, Kaepernick!

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      x2 – Thank you Colin Kaepernick for taking a stand (knee?) and calling attention to a very real issue!

      I’m a longstanding football fan but would happily live without the NFL in exchange for meaningful criminal justice reform.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Imagine Kaepernick’s impact if he didn’t suck!

      But I think he’s wisely positioning himself as the next Al Sharpton, cultivating his unique new Sly Rashid Hoffman constituency-spanning appearance package.

  • avatar
    Lynn Ellsworth

    Money, money, and money. Don’t forget the pressure applied to silly politicians to build stadiums. Phoenix is trying to unload a recently built stadium at a tremendous loss and Las Vegas just bowed down to pressure to build a stadium for someone. If the NFL and their remaining fans want to pay for these white elephants fine, but our weak politicians want to look like they are doing something with our tax money. The NFL can go to hell. I would rather watch “This Old House”.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      “This Old House” is nice, but kinda useless. It’s basically seeing what kind of improvements people can make if money is no object. “Ask This Old House” actually has some practical value to the average homeowner.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Add to that almost every show on HGTV, too. They will spend every dime you give them and more. A very unrealistic scenario for most people.

        Who, exactly, especially young people have upwards of a half-million dollars in CASH to buy and remodel a house? Plus always having high-end appliances? Really?

        I wish I knew what planet they live on, but still enjoyable to watch in small doses.

        • 0 avatar
          Bazza

          IMHO, in most cases you’re seeing young couples with $150K – $200K combined income using a combination of daddy’s down payment money and heavy debt load to plow into a home. There’s never much discussion as to what kind of work or real income they bring in because many people would dismiss them as overextended idiots and tune out.

          The real problem with the renovation shows is that they almost always quote ~50% of the real world cost for a particular improvement if the work is being done by a contractor. I’ve done remodels both DYI and farmed out and HGTV numbers are complete BS.

          • 0 avatar
            MeaMaximaCulpa

            150-200k combined income puts those young couples earnings at about three times the US-median family income, it’s a shame that the show doesn’t cater to people with a more modest/realistic income.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Up here in the frozen North , the NFL has pretty strong fan base . Still a few die hard CFL fans , personally I don’t sees how the league stays afloat. I follow baseball from spring training , to the World Series . When the weather turns , I may catch the 4:00 games, as long as it’s broadcast on network TV .

    We don’t see the American commercials . The Canadian networks buy the feed, and insert their own ads. If I switch to an American channel broadcasting the same game.,, the Cable providers by law, block the US feed .

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      And a funny thing about preferences: I was in a rather large bar and grill in mid-September at lunchtime in the Minneapolis area, on a cloudless, sunny, GORGEOUS late-summer day. The place was filled almost to capacity. College football games were on the flat-screens throughout the place! Most of the clientele appeared to be tatted-up Millennials.

      Turns out that the majority of the folks were there for a weekly gathering of high-stakes…

      (Wait for it…)

      BINGO!!!

      If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’!

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