NEW YORK - Advertisers splurged more than half a billion dollars during the Super Bowl, smashing previous records for an event that is routinely one of the most-watched things on US television.
Some of corporate America's biggest names coughed up an eye-watering average of $5.6 million for a 30-second spot in American football's razzmatazz-filled final.
Car companies, fast food chains and delivery apps were among those clamoring to get their brands in front of the 96.4 million people who watched Tom Brady's resurgent Tampa Bay Buccaneers trounce young pretender Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs.
A must-watch for dedicated fans, the NFL final is also a major cultural event in the United States, with millions of Americans traditionally joining Super Bowl parties to drink and eat with friends.
Ahead of Sunday's game, health officials had advised against such gatherings in an effort to tamp down the coronavirus.
The audience was the smallest for the Super Bowl in 14 years, though it is still likely to set the overall event viewership record for this year.
The splashy half-time show, which this year featured The Weeknd and hundreds of dancers with bandaged faces, adds to the allure, and many advertisers compete to provide amusing or particularly memorable spots.
Highlights this year included Will Ferrell picking a fight with Norway on behalf of GM over electric vehicles.
Market research firm Kantar said brands paid a total of $545 million for the 96 in-game spots that aired over the four-and-a-half-hour CBS broadcast.
That figure is a fifth higher than the previous highest total garnered in the 2020 edition, when the Chiefs overcame the San Francisco 49ers in a thriller that went down to the final minutes.
Despite the ongoing fragmentation of audiences and the rise of streaming platforms, live sports -- and American football in particular -- remain a safe bet for viewership numbers in the United States.
Several mainstay names opted to stay away from this year's big game, including Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Audi and Hyundai.
Northwestern University marketing professor Tim Calkins said some brands had struggled to find the right message for the pandemic climate, explaining the move to the sidelines.
"This is a challenging year, because it's hard to get the tone right on the Super Bowl," Calkins said.
"If you run a funny ad, it might seem inappropriate. If you run a very serious ad, it might seem discouraging. Given that, given all the chaos in the country, it's hard for these advertisers to figure out what to say at a big event like the Super Bowl."
The single biggest spender on Sunday's game was ViacomCBS itself, which spent $33 million to promote its new on-demand video service Paramount+, which is set to launch March 4.