Even with the National Football League's regular Sunday schedule just kicking off this weekend, there's another high-stakes football event already down to the two-minute warning: Super Bowl ad sales.
CBS will announce Friday that its Super Bowl ad slots are more than 90% sold out. The announcement comes five months before the game's broadcast on Feb. 3, 2013. The 30-second slots are going for a record $3.7 million to $3.8 million vs. an average $3.5 million during the 2012 broadcast on NBC. If CBS sells 60 slots, revenue could exceed $225 million.
Never mind that the economy is still in the doldrums and unemployment hovers at 8.3% nationally. When it comes to Super Bowl ad sales, there's no slowdown.
"We have a handful of units left," says John Bogusz, executive vice president of sports sales at CBS. "We're pacing well ahead of last time we had the game." (That was 2010, when it was 80% sold out at this point.)
Among the biggest repeat advertisers: Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo, Frito-Lay and Hyundai.
In a tough economy, why are Super Bowl ads hot? "Put quite simply, it works," says David Campanelli, director of national TV at Horizon Media.
A "significant number" of automakers will be in the game, Bogusz says. But one of the biggest, GM, said months ago that it would not return.
Some automakers that were not in the 2012 game will be in this go-round, Bogusz says. He declined to name them. There also will be new advertisers in the beverage and technology categories, he says.
Other recent Super Bowl advertiser news:
•Kia's back. The South Korean carmaker will be in the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. "The game has proven to be a powerful tool in our efforts to raise awareness and perception for the Kia brand," says Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing.
•Pepsi's got halftime. It will sponsor the halftime show.
•Coke's in. It will be in the game "with a new approach," says spokeswoman Lauren Thompson. Sorry, polar bear fans: no bears.
•Cars.com returns. The online car seller will be back in the game with one 30-second spot. "There is no better platform," says Linda Bartman, vice president of marketing.
•Go Daddy tones down. The Web domain name seller, known for its racy spots, has said it will tone down the content a bit to focus on its products.
By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY