Advertisers are spending more money on Super Bowl commercials and reaching fewer people

Advertisers who invest in ad spots during the Super Bowl are paying dramatically higher costs year over year, while the number of people they reach by the dollar is steadily decreasing.

Over the past decade, the cost of a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl has doubled. In 2008, advertisers paid $2.7 million per ad, and in 2018 they paid $5.2 million for the same length ad, according to Kantar Media. That price held steady in 2019, according to CNBC.

While Super Bowl viewership has risen since 2018, it has not been a steady rise, and some years have even seen a year-over-year decline. Viewership certainly hasn’t risen at a rate comparable to ad cost. In 2008, 97.4 million people watched the big game, but by 2018 that number had only risen 6 percent, to 103.4 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The bottom line for advertisers is that the reach of their ads on Super Bowl Sunday has dropped significantly. Ten years ago, for every dollar spent, an advertiser could count on reaching about 36 television viewers. In 2019, that number has fallen to only 20 television viewers reached.


  • Fabienne Meijer

    Fabienne Meijer graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a BSc in Bèta-Gamma, an interdisciplinary bachelor focusing on subjects such as chemistry and astronomy as well as philosophy and sociology. She majored in Philosophy. In the Netherlands, she worked as a freelance journalist and manager of a cooperative publisher for freelancers, where she also was a managing editor of an online magazine for refugee journalists. She has always been interested in investigative journalism and helped organize the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in 2017 in Johannesburg. At Stanford, she wants to learn to combine data journalism with storytelling, and become more experienced in running and managing a media enterprise.

  • Emily Merritt

    Emily Merritt graduated summa cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in Linguistics and a minor in Mandarin Chinese. Passionate about technology and education, she has since worked at several EdTech startups in the San Francisco Bay Area, including TenMarks Education, Osmo, and Swivl, with a focus on forwarding the goals and narratives of tech savvy educators. Most recently she has worked as a Product Manager for the Corporate Events Team of a California-based tech giant. At Stanford, she plans to merge her interest in public issues reporting, news content distribution, and the startup landscape. In her spare time she manages STEM programs for kids, is an avid podcast listener, and seeks out opportunities to learn new languages.

  • Ashlyn Rollins

    Ashlyn Rolllins graduated summa cum laude from Corban University with a B.S. in political science. Her passions include advocating for vulnerable populations including the elderly and those living in poverty. After her semester studying communications, marketing, migration and free speech and interning in Washington, D.C., she served as editor-in-chief for her school’s newspaper, The Hilltop. In this role, she gave students a platform to share their “me too” experiences and sought to relate national news and campus news. During her senior year, she wrote her thesis on malnutrition in nursing homes and presented it at a national undergraduate research conference. Ashlyn is excited to use the data and storytelling skills she learns at Stanford to write affective stories about major political issues.

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