Super Bowl sold out – who’s bought in?

Super Bowl Sunday in Canada is poised to be bigger than ever. CTV sold out of its in-game inventory yesterday, and MiC has collected some thoughts from those who've bought in for the big game.

At $110,000 a spot, CTV sold out of its Super Bowl inventory late last night.

Advertisers confirmed by CTV include Labatt Breweries, Rogers, Nissan, Disney, Under Armour, Best Buy, Mazda Canada, Campbell Soup Company, Ford of Canada,, Diet Pepsi and Doritos – the last of which will air the same creative with CTV that Pepsico is airing with Fox.

ZenithOptimedia clients in on the big game in Canada are Kia, Purolator, Nestle (Kit Kat), Workopolis, Zales and Wal-Mart – but the shop opted not to put any clients into CTV’s after-game offering, Nip/Tuck. The key sponsor of CTV’s Super Bowl broadcast, Labatt (an M2 Universal client), has a direct deal with the NFL that entitles the marketer to four minutes of ad time during the game, with on-screen billboards as well.

Starcom MediaVest Group tells MiC Walt Disney Studios is in on CTV’s Super Bowl broadcast, but would not reveal details about the creative or commercial length. PHD Canada bought a Super Bowl spot for Quiznos, but it was not a national spot (and the media agency noted that the big game is not part of a buying strategy for any of its clients this year).

Sources are telling MiC that Canadian viewers likely won’t see a lot of fresh new creative airing during the Super Bowl. Diet Pepsi, for one, is set to unveil another ‘Forever Young’ campaign ad, created by BBDO Toronto, about a male character stuck in his youth. ‘Keeping the creative fresh and relevant is perhaps our biggest challenge,’ says BBDO Toronto exec CD Ian MacKellar. ‘We’ve been able to successfully reinvent the essence of ‘Forever Young’ several times, allowing us to stay connected to the Diet Pepsi consumer.’

In the US, the list of ads set to debut is long and interesting. While Doritos goes the UGC route again, another marketer – MasterCard – is toying with podbusting by using Super Bowl time to run a two-minute branded content story. But in Canada, it just doesn’t make financial sense for the majority of Canadian advertisers to use the Bowl as a big reveal for fresh new creative or innovation, as American marketers do. Yahoo Canada will likely host some Super Bowl ads here. In the US, Nielsen is using its social network,, as one big focus group, inviting thousands of online users to rate the ads in real time with the game.

M2 Universal VP/director broadcast buying Dennis Dinga, who expects to see less first-run creative this year, says the Super Bowl in Canada just isn’t the same kind of big buzz launch pad for advertisers. ‘It never has been, and I think there will probably be even less this year. Do I think audiences will be up this year overall? Yes, I do, unless there’s a New England blow-out in the first half, which is possible as well. It all depends. You can get the perfect match-up, and if it’s a blow-out in the first quarter or half, the audience goes away.’

OMD Canada managing director Sherry O’Neil, whose agency has many clients returning to the Super Bowl this year, and ZenithOptimedia VP broadcast investment Florence Ng both agree that CTV will deliver more eyeballs than Global did last year. ‘I think they will have higher numbers for two reasons: the interest in New England going undefeated and CTV’s larger footprint versus Global when it comes to full coverage audience,’ says O’Neil. Ng also noted that the playoffs to date showed audience increases over last year.

In the US, women-focused brands that signed on with Fox – Sunsilk, Victoria’s Secret and P&G’s Tide to Go – could indicate that this Bowl could be one of the girliest in recent years. Less so in Canada. Capital C founder/CEO Tony Chapman tells MiC that Sunsilk’s Marilyn Monroe/Madonna/Shakira ad campaign (on which his agency collaborated with JWT New York, Paris’ DeGrippes Gobé and Ogilvy Action in Chicago) is not set to air in Canada during the big game.

And while the Super Bowl is less of a female audience buy in Canada than the US, M2 Universal’s Dinga believes co-viewing audiences in Canada will be up along with the overall ratings, ‘because of the writers’ strike. Usually on a Sunday evening, you’ll still have a new episode of Desperate Housewives or Brothers & Sisters or something else going on that females like to watch. A lot of people, including women, watch the Super Bowl in the States just to see the commercials, and don’t even care about the game. But we don’t have that in Canada.’

Chapman adds, ‘My belief is that in the USA the Super Bowl is an event that draws a more balanced male and female audience. I also believe this is another demonstration of how difficult it is becoming to get ‘live eyeballs’ on television, due to the penetration of TIVO and PVR. Live sports, especially the Super Bowl, is one of the last bastions of content that must be viewed live.’

CTV will use some of the air time to kick off promos for upcoming shows, including a multi-spot campaign for Jericho and heavy promos for Dexter and the original movie Mayerthorpe.

The net’s promo push for the big game itself includes three on-air spots, developed by the CTV Creative Agency, airing in high rotation on CTV, TSN, The Comedy Network, MuchMusic, MTV and Discovery Channel. One spot focuses on the big game in general, while the other two focus on the quarterbacks (New England’s Tom Brady and New York’s Eli Manning), their respective teams and their stories heading into the game.

Billboards and lower-thirds are running daily on SportsCentre and live sports programming on TSN. CTV’s online promotion at, the Super Bowl Game Face contest, gives viewers the opportunity to upload their best ‘game face’ photos for a chance to appear in four 15-second spots that will air during the Super Bowl.

A full slate of Super Bowl-related programming has been airing all week on numerous networks and high-profile shows including TSN, Canada AM (which will review Super Bowl ads on Monday morning), eTalk and FashionTelevision, which will examine the style behind the uniforms on Friday.

For marketers, sometimes getting in on the big game doesn’t mean buying a spot. As a possible harbinger of things to come down south, a major marketer has come up with a strategy to avoid paying astronomical Super Bowl fees – such as the $2.7-$3 million Fox is reportedly demanding this year for 30-second spots. KFC is offering to donate $260,000 to its Colonels Scholars charity in the name of whichever football player agrees to perform the chicken dance during a break in the big game.

‘There are lots of ways to advertise,’ explains KFC spokesman Rick Maynard. ‘We think this is unique, and will get people talking,’ and making the connection between the dance everyone loves to hate and a certain finger-lickin’ fave.
With files from Terry Poulton