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CBS sells out Super Bowl advertising slots

February 2, 2010

Tim Tebow’s Super Bowl commercial for Focus on the Family, along with first-time advertisements from a dozen other marketers, helped CBS increase sales from the game as Priceline.com Inc. and Toyota Motor Co. opted out.

New advertisers Electronic Arts Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and truTV are joining Tebow and long-time Super Bowl marketer Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the biggest sponsor, to push sales past the $206 million NBC reported last year, according to Dana McClintock, a spokesman for New York-based CBS Corp.

CBS has completed ad sales for the Feb. 7 match-up between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, with prices for some 30-second spots exceeding $3 million, according to CBS. Building on record audiences for last month’s playoffs, the National Football League championship could attract 100 million viewers, said Jo Ann Ross, head of CBS advertising sales, topping last year’s record 98.7 million.

“People don’t record the Super Bowl,” said Phil Marineau, senior product manager at Redwood City, Calif.-based Electronic Arts, which is promoting the “Dante’s Inferno” video game. “They don’t want a Twitter or text message to spoil it, so they watch it live and they watch the commercials.”

CBS’s sellout of ads a week ahead of the kickoff in Miami suggests the advertising market is recovering.

In previous match-ups, networks had ads to sell until the weekend of the game, according to Andy Donchin, director of media investments at Carat, a New York advertising agency whose clients include Papa John’s International Inc., the pizza chain based in Louisville, Ky. It’s rare to wrap up Super Bowl sales six days before the game, Donchin said.

U.S. broadcast network advertising may rise 7.8 percent this year from 2009, Barclays Capital estimated last week, up from a prior projection of a 4.5 percent increase.

CBS is running a Web site and a Feb. 3 show to let viewers vote on the best ads from past games.

Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida, will appear with his mother, Pam, in a commercial for Focus on the Family, a Christian not-for-profit advocacy group based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“They will share a personal story centered on the theme of ‘Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life,’” Jim Daly, the group’s president, said in a statement.

The ad is expected to recount the story of Pam Tebow’s pregnancy in 1987, the Associated Press reported. While on a mission to the Philippines, she rejected her doctors’ advice to abort her fifth child and gave birth to Tim, AP reported.

With at least 13 new advertisers, according to CBS, this year’s game is attracting double the number of new participants as last year and the year before. The network lists 38 marketers whose ad buys for the event are public.

Companies introducing products are attracted to the Super Bowl because the championship draws the biggest TV audience of the year, Donchin said. Electronic Arts’ “Dante’s Inferno” arrives in stores on Feb. 9, two days later, Marineau said.

Unilever, the world’s second-largest consumer products company and based in London and Rotterdam, is promoting a new line of soap for men. Time Warner Inc. will air a 30-second spot for “Full Contact,” a behind-the-scenes program about the NFL on the New York-based media company’s truTV cable channel, formerly known as Court TV, according to a statement.

Qualcomm, the San Diego-based maker of cell-phone chips, is promoting its FLO TV personal television service for handheld devices.

Belgian brewer AB InBev’s Budweiser, the biggest advertiser, is taking five minutes of air time, according to Advertising Age, the industry trade publication. Dodge, owned by Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler Group LLC, is the only domestic automaker, while Volkswagen AG’s Audi and namesake German brand, Japan’s Honda Motor Co., and South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. have taken spots.

“The positive side is the imports have really stepped up to the plate,” CBS’s Ross said in an interview. “In some cases they’re buying two 30-second spots.”

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