It's Super Bowl time! On Sunday February 5, after the national anthem has been sung by Luke Bryan, the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will compete live in the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas - and across America on the Fox network - to determine which is the country's best American football team.
In parallel, brands will compete for the attention of the biggest TV audience of the year, exceeding 114 million viewers last year, with advertising spots, most of which are tailor-made with the event in mind. Music placements on these spots are highly coveted commodities by all the music publishers in the US. Spots on Super Bowl night can cost to up to $5.5 million for a 30-second slot.
"Placing music on Super Bowl ads is getting more competitive - everybody wants to be in," says Patrick Joest, president, international licensing & marketing at BMG in Los Angeles. "The visibility is great, budgets are healthy and music can help to differentiate the brands." Last year, BMG licensed Aerosmith's Dream On in a Skittles spot that also included a cameo by the band's lead singer Steven Tyler.
Many of the ads remain under wraps until the moment they are broadcast during the commercial breaks and most of the publishers contacted by Music Week cited confidentiality agreements preventing them from naming the songs they have placed.
However, brands also tease the spots on YouTube before Super Bowl. Spots that have been disclosed include Pepsi/NFL using Lady Gaga’s A-Yo (Sony/ATV), Pepsi again with John Legend's Love Me Now, Wendy’s with Foreigner's Cold as Ice, Nintendo Switch's with Believer by Imagine Dragons, Lexus using Sia's Move Your Body (written by Sia and Greg Kurstin, both published by Sony/ATV), GoDaddy using Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley and Intel using Sports Open Theme from Warner/Chappell Productions, among others.
Tom Eaton, SVP music for advertising at Universal Music Publishing Group, reported significant use of Universal's repertoire both with newer artists (Imagine Dragons, Justin Bieber) and iconic songs (Born To Be Wild, Never Gonna Give You Up).
"It’s been a very significant year for us in terms of Super Bowl song placements," said Eaton. "We measure success not only in licensing revenue, but through the enormous impact a Super Bowl ad can have by elevating interest in a new song or artist, or breathing new life into a classic hit. Major advertisers are always interested to use current, superstar artists or catalog hits to create that memorable Super Bowl moment. Universal Music Publishing has such an amazing roster and iconic catalog, so we can always find the perfect song for what advertisers want to convey."
Featuring celebrities or artists in the ads seems to be the new craze for Super Bowl 2017: Justin Timberlake appears in a Bai spot; Justin Bieber is in a T-Mobile commercial using an instrumental version of his song Children; Peter Fonda drives a Mercedes, with Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild blasting, in a modern remake of Easy Rider; Jason Statham and Gal Gadot destroy a whole restaurant in an ad for Wix.com; Melissa McCarthy plays in a Kia ad using Bonnie Tyler's Holding Out For A Hero; Steve Carroll is in an Honda ad and Bryan Cranston appears in a Ford ad using Nina Simone's I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.
The event is also renowned for its half-time entertainment break, featuring a 13-minute music performance that can be career-defining, such as the ones by Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, U2, or last year's extravaganza involving Coldplay, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson.
This year's halftime entertainer is Lady Gaga, who will be introduced by Tony Bennett, with whom she recorded an album in 2014. At a pre-Super Bowl press conference, the Streamline/Interscope-signed artist declined to disclose any details of her performance. According to the New York Times, when asked if she would use the Super Bowl platform to express anti-Trump comments, Gaga replied: “The only statements that I’ll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I’ve been consistently making throughout my career. I believe in a passion for inclusion. I believe in the spirit of equality, and that the spirit of this country is one of love and compassion and kindness. My performance will uphold those philosophies.”