Sports fans don’t typically pay close attention to commercials when their favorite teams are on TV, but the Super Bowl is a well-known exception and advertisers are paying top dollar to reap the benefits.

It’s been reported 30-second commercials for this year’s Bengals-Rams match-up in Super Bowl 56 cost companies more than $6.5 million — the most expensive Super Bowl ad price in NFL history, according to Mitchell Olsen, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

“This year, when paying up to $7 million for 30 seconds of air, brands are really hoping you time your guacamole refills for the football breaks that play between commercials,” Olsen said. “It’s natural to wonder why some companies are willing to pay so much for so little air time, but there are good reasons why the Super Bowl commands the most expensive commercial real estate on television.”

The Super Bowl consistently attracts the largest television audience annually, and Olsen says it’s also the rare occasion when such a large portion of the country simultaneously comes together for a shared experience that is generally fun and positive. 

For brands that are small or new but flush with cash, Olsen says the Super Bowl offers a virtually unparalleled opportunity to instantly generate widespread awareness among people who have never heard of them before.

“I think that’s one reason why cryptocurrency exchanges are going to have such a large presence at this year’s game,” he said. “For large, well-known brands, the Super Bowl is an opportunity to remind us what they offer and move their brand to the top of our minds the next time we’re thinking about buying tortilla chips, for instance.

“For these large, well-known brands, the game can also serve as a massive launch party for a new product and/or advertising campaign that, for example, features a new spokesperson the brand will work with going forward.”

Regardless of whether the advertised brand is already a household name, Olsen says its management team must have plans in place for ensuring the Super Bowl-generated spike in awareness does more than just create 24 hours’ worth of Twitter buzz.

“I think the vacation rental site Vrbo is a good example of a brand doing just that,” he said. “This year, Vrbo is pairing its Super Bowl ad with a related TikTok challenge that lasts through Feb. 19, where three winners will receive $5,000 Vrbo vacations. Vrbo’s post-Super Bowl promotion should help convert newly aware and engaged consumers into longer-term followers of the brand and increase the probability they will actually pull out their credit card or Bitcoin wallet.”