The rising cost of Super Bowl commercials: By the numbers

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week

Dozens of companies have shelled out a record $3.5 million each for 30-second ad spots during the upcoming big game. Is that actually a bargain?

Months before the Super Bowl unfolds on Feb. 5, ad space for this year's telecast was all sold out. According to The Wall Street Journal, the last 30-second slot was purchased by Thanksgiving, despite a record $3.5 million average price tag. And that's just the fee for air time — companies will pay untold millions more to produce their competitively "memorable" commercials. Here, a numerical look at how the skyrocketing costs break down — and why these pricey spots may not be such a bad deal after all:

$3.5 million
Cost of a typical 30-second ad during this year's Feb. 5 Super Bowl telecast, according to The Wall Street Journal

$3 million
Cost of a 30-second spot last year

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Percentage rise in Super Bowl ad prices since 2001, "demonstrating the impact of the Super Bowl — the top trophy sports event programming — on the advertising industry," says Erin Carlson at The Hollywood Reporter

$4 million
Top price paid this year for a 30-second Super Bowl spot in a prime-time slot

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Number of 30-second ad spots that have been sold

48 million
Times that Volkswagen's 2011 Darth Vader commercial has been viewed on YouTube, on top of the millions of impressions it made during last year's Super Bowl telecast, says Dorothy Pomerantz at Forbes. "Popular ads have long lives as viral phenomenons."

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$100 million
Estimated value of the publicity VW's Darth Vader spot received after its Super Bowl debut. "When you put it in that light," says Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic, "$3.5 million doesn't seem like such a bad deal."

How much more memorable Super Bowl ads are, expressed in percentage, compared to the average TV commercial, according to Nielsen

111 million
Total number of viewers for last year's Super Bowl

Percentage of U.S. households who tuned in to last year's game

$12 million
Amount Chrysler reportedly spent on a two-minute ad last year, the most expensive in history

Sources: Atlantic, CNN, Forbes, Hollywood Reporter, Huff. Post, Sports Betting World, USA Today, Wall St. Journal

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