Fox had to think outside the “commercial pod” box during the Super Bowl.

By Katie Jordan Green, Christine Formenti and Carrie Tiz from C-K’s Strategic Audio Visual Investments (SAVI) Team

In an increasingly fragmented media space, high profile television events are scarcer than ever. With 100 million people watching across the country, the Super Bowl is one of those singular events. Historically, Super Bowl advertising sold out only a few weeks prior to the big game, but 2020 was noticeably different, selling out in November.

Just when advertisers thought they missed their chance at running in the big game, Fox created a way to accommodate more brands in the event with a “floating” commercial break adding another two minutes of commercial time to the game. The “floating” commercial break did come with a cost to the event’s typical layout. Traditional billboard units and “shout-outs” to brands from the announcers would happen less frequently in order fit in the new ad break.

C-K expects new ad formats will continue to make their way into live events and premiere programming. While networks claim to be working to reduce ad loads to compete with streaming services that have few or zero ad breaks, we have yet to see this proven out.

While the marketplace for in-event messaging continues to evolve, and networks try to hold onto their ad revenue as linear TV ratings continue to decline, the unique opportunities networks develop to accommodate brands is usually reserved for big brands with even bigger budgets. Given all budgets aren’t created equal, not all brands can get into the linear TV environment but that doesn’t mean they can’t win in tentpole events.

Advertisers have options to access the programming they desire as linear OTT, like Sling TV or AT&T Now, or unwired partners can have access to inventory in high-profile events. Another option would be to have a presence in associated or surrounding content, like pre- or post-game content or red carpet and recap programming that creates a halo effect that associates a brand with the event. And let’s not forget about social as these channels have proven to host an engaged audience around these events that are more than willing to engage with brands. At the end of the day, no matter the budget, there’s room for everyone to win in high profile TV events like the Super Bowl.