The U.S. television broadcast of the Super Bowl – the championship game of the National Football League (NFL) – features many high-profile television commercials, colloquially known as Super Bowl ads. The phenomenon is a result of the game's extremely high viewership and wide demographics: Super Bowl games have frequently been among the United States' most watched television broadcasts, with Nielsen having estimated that Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 was seen by at least 114.4 million viewers in the United States, surpassing the previous year's Super Bowl as the highest-rated television broadcast in U.S. history. As such, advertisers have typically used commercials during the Super Bowl as a means of building awareness for their products and services among this wide audience, while also trying to generate buzz around the ads themselves so they may receive additional exposure, such as becoming a viral video.
Super Bowl commercials have become a cultural phenomenon of their own alongside the game itself; many viewers only watch the game to see the commercials, national surveys (such as the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter) judge which advertisement carried the best viewer response, and CBS has aired yearly specials since 2000 chronicling notable commercials from the game. Super Bowl advertisements have become iconic and well-known because of their cinematographic quality, unpredictability, surreal humor, and use of special effects. The use of celebrity cameos has also been common in Super Bowl ads. A number of major brands, including Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Doritos, GoDaddy and Master Lock, have been well known for making repeated appearances during the Super Bowl.
The prominence of airing a commercial during the Super Bowl has also carried an increasingly high price: the average cost of a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl has ranged from $37,500 at Super Bowl I, to around $2.2 million at Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000, and by Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, had doubled to around $4.5 million. The cost of advertising during the Super Bowl has reached a point that some companies may not be able to recoup their costs from the resulting revenue. Some commercials airing during, or proposed to air during the game, have also attracted controversy due to the nature of their content.
Super Bowl commercials are largely limited to the United States' broadcast of the game. Complaints about the inability to view the ads are prevalent in Canada, where federal "simsub" regulations require pay television providers to replace feeds of programs from U.S. broadcast stations with domestic feeds if they are being broadcast at the same time as a Canadian broadcast station. In 2016, the CRTC. Canada's telecom regulator, enacted a policy to forbid the use of simsub during the Super Bowl, citing viewer complaints and a belief that these ads were an "integral part" of the game; Super Bowl LI was the first game to fall under this policy. The NFL's Canadian rightsholder Bell Media challenged the policy at the federal appeals court, arguing that it violated the Broadcasting Act by singling out a specific program for regulation, and devalued its broadcast rights to the game. The court, however, ruled in December 2017 that the CRTC's actions were reasonable.
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