The Super Bowl promises to deliver much of what advertisers want—a big event with newsworthy interest, a huge audience occasionally on the edge of their seats, extensions in PR, social media and the web, with word of mouth that will all measure into scads of money for the best spots.

The Super Bowl by the Numbers

According to a Retail Advertising and Marketing Association survey, 173 million people will watch the New England Patriots and New York Giants in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5, up from an estimated 171 million last year and the most in the survey’s eight-year history.

Consumer spending for the Super Bowl will reach an all-time high, too, with the average game-watcher expected to shell out $63.87 on related merchandise, apparel and snacks, up from $59.33 last year. Total Super Bowl spending is expected to reach $11 billion.

Established brands will protect their position. Up and coming brands will invite consideration. Older brands will look for their renewal.  Cars, snacks, beer, electronics, movies and more will vie for the title of most entertaining spots of this year’s crop. We’ll see viewer-generated content. Celebrities. Stories well told.

We’ll be invited to check the second screen (our computer), iPad or Smartphone for live streaming coverage, back stories and additional brand engagement. In fact, iProspect tells us that 61% of Facebook users, identified as Super Bowl fans, posted status updates during the 2011 game and that 28% of users, identified as fans, directly chatted or messaged with friends.

So why don’t more advertisers pay to play in this exciting space?

Fear of failure. Cost. And return on investment. Being judged by the high standards of expectation can be daunting for even the boldest of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs). GM CMO Joel Ewanick says, “This isn’t for the faint of heart.”

Being tagged as not ready for this prime time venue can be career threatening. Not to mention the cost of $3.5 million to $4 million per spot. CFOs like to know how that plays out in terms of customer acquisition, retention and market share. ROI is the real reason. One shot at results. Say you get a one-sided game. A national or international story intrudes on the fun. Or you’re buried behind or among other great and not-so-great spots. It’s a gamble, for sure.

Nonetheless, it’s an event at the top of pop culture and an interesting look at just what pop culture values. Done well, the risks can be rewarding.

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