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Super Bowl Telecast Provides Advertising Showcase

January 17, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ Football fans and their friends will soon assemble around televisions for the year’s biggest game, and advertisers are forking over millions to tug at their sleeves during breaks in the action.

The Super Bowl is two weeks away, but NBC said this past week it has sold all but one 30-second commercial as of midweek from the 28 minutes of advertising time in the game itself.

Game day has become a national event. High school players dream of being in it. Adults plans parties around it. And advertisers develop new campaigns to capaitalize on the attention.

Super Bowl regulars are back with ads for Nike and Reebok sneakers, Pepsi and Seven-Up soft drinks, McDonald’s fast food and Budweiser beer. Newcomers include Lincoln-Mercury cars and Lee’s jeans, while Subaru cars and Miller beer are back after being away from the telecast for several years.

Missing from action in this year’s game will be onetime Super Bowl advertisers like Coca-Cola, Levi jeans and Toyota cars.

The Super Bowl audience is usually television’s largest of the year and NBC is hoping that more than 100 million people will tune in for the game Jan. 31. An estimated 112 million people watched last year when Washington beat Buffalo.

The huge audiences enable broadcasters to charge record ad rates for commercials in the Super Bowl, well above those on popular primetime shows.

NBC declined to comment on published reports that it is charging between $850,000 and $900,000 for a 30-second commercial during the game. Ad buyers said privately most of the 20 sponsors are paying close to the lower rate, which is what CBS said it charged for its Super Bowl ads in 1992.

Even at $850,000, NBC would get $47.6 million in revenue from the game commercials alone. It will get millions more for ads in the 2 1/2 -hour pregame show and the post-game show.

The high price of admission has goaded advertisers to produce good work. That in turn has made the telecast a showcase for commercials as well as for athletic skill. Apple Computer Inc. set the standard for advertisers in 1984 with a riveting Orwellian ad for Macintosh computers.

Among the new products being pitched on this year’s game will be Gillette- brand toiletries for men, Subaru’s latest automobile model and the colorless cola Crystal Pepsi.

Gillette Co. is advertising its first line of shaving preparations, deodorants and skin conditioners carrying the Gillette name. ″This is the place to be if you want the male audience,″ said spokeswoman Michele Szynal. Subaru of America, last in the Super Bowl in 1983, bought six 15-second ads to introduce its new Impreza model. Each ad will show a feature of the car, which won’t be competely revealed until the sixth spot.

″We want to tell as many people as we can at once that Subaru has a new car in the marketplace,″ said Mark Dunn, national ad manager.

Pepsi-Cola Co. bought four minutes for new ads for Crystal Pepsi, which it is taking national after tests in several cities, and for regular Pepsi. The Crystal Pepsi ads will use Van Halen’s ″Right Now″ music and the theme ″You’ve never seen a taste like this.″ The Pepsi ads will focus on the energetic Pepsi generation.

Coca-Cola Co., which was last on the Super Bowl in 1991 when it replaced a humorous series of ads with more somber ads in deference to the Persian Gulf war, said the timing for this year’s Super Bowl didn’t match its ad schedule.

It trotted out a new ″Taste It All″ theme for Diet Coke on New Year’s Eve that it didn’t want to hold a month for the Super Bowl, said spokesman Randy Donaldson. A new Coca-Cola Classic campaign is being prepared but won’t be ready until spring.

Levi Strauss & Co. and Toyota Motor Sales USA also cited poor timing in explaining why they skipped this Super Bowl. Levi was last on the telecast in 1991 with Dockers ads, while Toyota advertised a new Camry model last year.

The major sneaker companies are in this year’s Super Bowl.

Nike Inc., which produced ″Hare Jordan″ for last year’s game, has a new 90-second commercial with basketball star Michael Jordan and his animated buddy Bugs Bunny. Jordan discovers his shoes are missing from his locker and Bugs joins him in a search through the universe that takes them to Mars and an encounter with Marvin the Martian and other animated characters.

Reebok International Ltd. bought two minutes on the game for what its top advertising executive Dave Ropes said will be a global campaign emphasizing the shoe can help the wearer ″live life to the fullest.″ Previous Reebok ads emphasized its Pump technology or fashion.

Anheuser-Busch Inc. is serving up the fifth annual Bud Bowl game in a series of four 60-second ads. It recruited ex-New York Jets star Joe Namath to coach the animated Budweiser team against ″L.A. Law″ actor Corbin Bernsen’s team of animated Bud Light and Bud Dry bottles.

For those keeping track, Budweiser leads the series three to one.

August Busch IV, vice president for Budweiser Brands, said the Bud Bowl series is ″one of the top-performing media buys that we have″ despite the hefty price tag.

Buffalo’s recent come-from-behind win in the playoffs over Houston comforted companies with ads late in the Super Bowl that people will still watch even if the score is lopsided.

The NFL took steps to guard against audience erosion in the second half, hiring Radio City Music Hall Productions to produce a livelier halftime show.

The show will feature a live performance from the Rose Bowl by entertainer Michael Jackson, who will sing and appear with youngsters who will fill the field in a display of racial and ethnic harmony, according to executive producer Arlen Kantarian.

Last year, the Fox Broadcasting Co. siphoned millions of viewers away from the halftime show on CBS with a live edition of its ″In Living Color″ show.

Frito-Lay Inc., which sponsored the Fox network’s show a year ago, signed up to sponsor the official halftime show this year.

Fox considered counter-programming again this year with a major boxing match, said a Fox spokesman Jeff De Rome. But Jay Coleman, who orchestrated last year’s counterprogram, said Fox was unable to sign either George Foreman or heavyweight titleist Riddick Bowe for a fight.

The Super Bowl isn’t for every advertiser, even those that can afford it.

Bob Lepre, a partner in New England Consulting Group, said companies that want to reach men can find other shows like major tennis, gold and pro basketball games that are less expensive but do the job.

He said advertising on the Super Bowl becomes an ego trip for some corporate executives. ″It’s really hard to justify spending that kind of money on one program,″ he said.

End Adv for Sunday, Jan. 17

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