Sex, Snacks and Videotape: A History of Super Bowl Ad Breaks


In retrospect, it’s tricky to connect the dots between the low-stakes experiment that was the first Super Bowl in 1967 and the great American secular holiday/marketing extravaganza that the game is today. Not only was the Chiefs-Packers showdown promoted as the “First AFL-NFL World Championship Game,” but the receiver who hauled in the first touchdown pass of the new era was so hungover he couldn’t locate his helmet.

Despite airing on NBC and CBS simultaneously, what would later come to be remembered as “Super Bowl I” wasn’t the high-gloss, multimillion-dollar production that is now synonymous with Super Sunday. Until recently, it was believed that no copy of either broadcast existed; as was common practice in the late 1960s, both networks wiped their respective tapes to free up space for other content (read: soap operas). A technical glitch caused NBC to return too late for the start of the second half, which resulted in Green Bay having to re-do the kickoff, and a ruinously overserved Max McGee was wearing someone else’s helmet when he caught a first-quarter TD to put the Pack up 7-0. (Thinking he wasn’t going to see much action, the 35-year-old backup had staggered back to his hotel room at 6:30 a.m. that morning. Some guys give 100%, but Max McGee gave 100 proof.)

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For all that, the commercials weren’t exactly cheap—at least not compared to the $12 ticket price. The average cost of a 30-second spot in Super Bowl I was $42,500 a pop for marketers who bought time in the CBS broadcast (or $396,252 in today’s currency) and $37,500 (or $349,635) for those who targeted NBC viewers. The reason for the discrepancy: CBS drew higher regular-season ratings as the NFL’s TV partner, whereas NBC did smaller numbers with the upstart AFL’s games.

While obviously a success out of the gate, the early Super Bowls are a poor relation to the spectacles of the last 40 years. For one thing, it took five years for the broadcast to…

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Author : Sportico

Publish date : 2024-02-11 13:00:00

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