There are your average Super Bowl ads and then there's the most expensive Super Bowl commercial of all-time.
Left: Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Right: Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Most Expensive Super Bowl Commercial Ever Broke the Bank

The Big Game is almost upon us, and that means that companies are ready to spend big money to capitalize on the millions of prospective customers' eyeballs that will be glued to their TV sets this Sunday evening as the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Philadelphia Eagles and Rihanna takes the stage for her highly anticipated halftime show. It's no secret that Super Bowl commercials are among the most expensive ad spots in the calendar year. And with a viewership of more than 100 million annually, it's not hard to see why the Super Bowl is the premier sporting event for marketing. But, which ad has the honor of being the most expensive Super Bowl commercial ever?

Major Companies Shelling Out Big Bucks for Super Bowl Ads

An aerial view of State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

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Last year, NBC charged $6.5 million for an ad during Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. For this year's Super Bowl broadcast on Fox, it will cost approximately $6-7 million for each 30-second spot. To put that into perspective, in Super Bowl I in 1967, a 30-second ad cost $37,500. Last year, companies spent $233,000 per second for each ad.

It's no wonder that ESPN, CBS, Fox and NBC all invest serious money in joining the TV rotation for the Super Bowl. The broadcasting network will take in nearly $450 million of in-game ad revenue.

As a result of the commercials' cost, major brands try to up their game by producing the most memorable and best Super Bowl ads. Whether it's memorable characters, catchy new slogans or absurd situations with celebrity cameos, Super Bowl commercials are as big a part of the NFL's biggest night as the game itself.

Two-Minute Ads? Not So Much Anymore

Kansas City Chiefs Owner Clark Hunt, Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Los Angeles Chargers Owner Dean Spanos on the field before the game at Arrowhead Stadium

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Some companies double or even triple their investment, purchasing 60- or 90-second commercial spots to run extended cinematic ads. For a time, it became a trend for companies to buy out an entire two-minute ad break and play cinematic-style ad spots, which would come with a price tag of $15-20 million.

Chrysler was the standard-bearer for this type of advertising strategy.

In 2011, the car company purchased a full 120 seconds of Super Bowl XLV to celebrate the rebirth of Detroit's auto industry. The spot featured Detroit's own Eminem and advertised the Chrysler 200.

A 2012 two-minute ad by the same Fiat Chrysler Group played at halftime of Super Bowl XLVI and featured Clint Eastwood in a two-minute film titled "Halftime in America," which was followed by Tom Brady's second Super Bowl loss. In 2013, Samsung played a two-minute-long Super Bowl ad featuring a host of celebrities, including Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Bob Odenkirk and LeBron James.

The next year, Chrysler returned with a two-minute spot featuring Bob Dylan.

But over the past decade, these longer spots have been phased out as the price tags of Super Bowl commercials continued to climb. In 2014, 40% of ads were 60 seconds or longer; a few years later, that number had dipped to just a quarter of all the ads run during the Super Bowl.

Google, Amazon Top the All-Time Most Expensive List

Even at just 90 seconds, the most expensive Super Bowl commercials of all time cost $16.8 million apiece. Both of them were 1½-minute-long ads that ran during Super Bowl LIV in 2020.

Amazon imagined a time before its Alexa product existed in an advertisement titled "Before Alexa"; while Google's commercial for its own assistant, named Loretta, showed a somber story of an elderly man using the product to compile memories of his late wife.

Also shelling out more than $16 million was 84 Lumber, which capitalized on national sentiment to tell a pro-immigration message of a mom and daughter journeying to the U.S.

Cars, Beers and Movie Premiers

 Detail view of the Bud Light and Super Bowl LVI logo seen at the Super Bowl Experience on February 08, 2022, at the Los Angeles Convention Center

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A wise adage would suggest you should focus your advertisements toward your audience — and for the Super Bowl, that's predominantly middle-age men who like cars, beers and blockbuster movies.

Super Bowl advertising is generally peppered with 30-second ads from Budweiser, Bud Light and Anheuser-Busch, along with Kia, Toyota and Ford. Those three car companies had among the top 10 most-expensive Super Bowl commercials in history.

Studios also use the Super Bowl as a way to premiere trailers for their big-ticket movies. In 2018, Universal Pictures bought 90 seconds during Super Bowl LII to air the trailer for "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." The price tag of $12 million was almost 7% of the entire movie's budget.

At that rate, commercials for Super Bowl LIII could've cost about as much as Michael Jordan's yacht.

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