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Volume 23 No. 29
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Presidential ad spend reaches $41.1 million

Photo: Getty images (2)

President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden have purchased 2,801 ads totaling more than $41.1 million to air during sports telecasts from Aug. 17 (the first day of the 2020 Democratic National Convention) to election day on Nov. 3. That total is based on Sports Business Journal’s analysis of two data sources: thousands of Federal Communications Commission documents filed by ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates in 22 “battleground” markets, and data detailing how much each candidate paid the parent networks to advertise nationally during sportscasts.


The FCC requires local affiliates to provide detailed contract information about their political advertisers to the FCC. Fairfax, Va.-based Harris Sikes Media handles the ordering for Trump for President and Atlanta-based Media Buying and Analytics navigates the process for Biden for President.

By the numbers

■ $41.12 million total spending

■ More than 8,700 documents analyzed

■ 88 network affiliates

■ 2,801 ads totaling nearly 25 hours

■ 22 markets studied in 12 states

■ 79 active big league teams in those markets

In SBJ’s seventh analysis dating back to the 2004 election, we targeted presidential campaigns in local U.S. markets that are home to at least one MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS or WNBA team. From there, we narrowed our focus to the markets in 12 states considered to be a “battleground state” by RealClear Politics, FiveThirtyEight, Rasmussen Reports and local media.

The FCC does not have a standard template for the physical filings for stations to fill out, and there is little continuity across the filing landscape. Because all the data provided to the FCC is entered manually at the individual stations, there were frequent contract revisions (sometimes because of input errors) and make-goods that had to be accounted for in the research so they could be included with our tabulations.

Additionally, fluctuations in voter sentiment and schedule changes in the sports world generated almost daily adjustments in the more than 25 hours of ads ordered. CBS’ Oct. 4 New England Patriots-Kansas City Chiefs matchup, for example, was bumped to the next night. The 22 affiliates that we tracked had booked $607,000 of NFL-related orders for that day, much of which will be either shifted to a different timeslot, different market or cancelled altogether.