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Volume 24 No. 155
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College Football Seeing Uptick In TV Ad Spending Despite Increase In Inventory

College football as an ad category is “hotter than ever, helping fuel an extraordinary escalation in television-rights fees for college sports,” according to Suzanne Vranica of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Data from Kantar Media showed that companies “spent about $1 billion on college football national-TV ads in the 2011 season, up 27% from the prior season.” Some marketers are “moving money from other parts of their ad budget.” Data showed that GM, the “second-largest advertiser in college football behind AT&T Inc., boosted its spending on the category last season by 24% to $46 million -- despite cutting its overall U.S. ad spending by 16%.” Aflac said that it has “increased its spending on college football by 47% over the past three years.” It intends next year to "roll out an Aflac truck to football events to allow students and alumni to sign up for insurance.” Like the NFL, college football “gives marketers a way of connecting with affluent males watching live programs who are hard to reach through other TV programming -- but at a lower price” than pro football. Chick-fil-A “buys college football ad time because it wants to reach upscale men.” Chick-fil-A Senior VP & CMO Steve Robinson said that the QSR has “tripled what it spends on the sport over the past five years.” Vranica notes the NCAA “offers more flexibility than the NFL in allowing integration of sponsors into game broadcasts.” Data from Kantar Media showed the average price of a 30-second ad during regular Saturday college games airing on ABC, CBS or NBC in the ‘11 season “cost about $93,700, up 12% from the prior season, while the average price of a spot during the Bowl Championship Series was about $810,000, up 9%.” Kantar added that ad prices so far this season are “up between 10% and 15%” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/10).

BIG BET: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Bachman & Futterman write under the header “College Football’s Big-Money, Big-Risk Business Model” and report that TV “has agreed to pump about” $25.5B in rights fees into college conferences and their member schools over the next 15 years. That includes ESPN’s recent deal to televise “major-college football's first playoff” valued at $5.6B over 12 years. Meanwhile, schools are "doing whatever is needed to maximize what they can command from TV.” Given the rising costs of Division I college athletics, “which at their current growth rate will increase some” $12B over the next 10 years, “this alliance represents one of the largest bets in the history of both these businesses”: a $25.5B “wager that college football, a quirky, tradition-bound game that used to be a regional fixation, can continue to draw large national audiences and, in doing so, help both the schools and the networks survive” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/10).

: AD WEEK’s Anthony Crupi notes the Notre Dame-Alabama BCS National Championship matchup “suggests that the ratings for the Jan. 7 broadcast will be celestial.” The title sponsors are “allotted between eight and 10 spots in their showcase BCS games,” and inventory was “tight long before the matchups were even announced.” Ad units went “particularly fast in this year’s upfront,” and ESPN President of Customer Marketing & Sales Ed Erhardt estimates that he “sold between 80 percent to 85 percent of all of his available bowl inventory in the spring bazaar.” Crupi notes the relative “scarcity of air time and the potential for blockbuster deliveries have latecomers digging deep.” While ESPN does not comment on pricing, media buyers said that 30-second spots packaged with digital opportunities “were going for as much as $1 million just two weeks ago.” Erhardt said, “We have a handful of opportunities that we are using very strategically so that all parts of our portfolio are monetized.” He added that “nearly every linear TV buy is packaged with real estate on a suite of digital properties that includes and the WatchESPN app.” Those looking to buy in-game spots to stream on WatchESPN are “out of luck” (, 12/10).