Bell Media announces Super Bowl 50 advertiser roster

Barring a successful appeal, this will be the last Super Bowl with Canadian commercials

In what is likely the final year that the Super Bowl will feature Canadian commercials, Bell Media has announced a full roster of advertisers for Super Bowl 50.

Barring a court ruling that would overturn the CRTC’s controversial January 2015 decision eliminating simultaneous substitution from the Super Bowl telecast, Bell Media will not be permitted to substitute Canadian ads into American broadcasts during the game beyond this year.

The company holds costly NFL rights through 2019, and warns that its inability to sell ads in the Super Bowl will adversely impact jobs and its contribution to Canadian programming, while also closing off a major opportunity to Canadian advertisers.

“There are only a few broadcasts each year that reach this many Canadians, so an opportunity has clearly been erased,” Perry MacDonald, senior vice-president of English television and local sales for CTV, told Marketing this week.

“This decision takes money out of the Canadian company and puts it in the hand of American companies, so [they] would be handed exposure to millions of Canadian consumers at no additional cost, while making it impossible for home-grown businesses to participate in the most important advertising event of the year.”

The company has one final Hail Mary play left. On Dec. 15, the Federal Court of Appeal granted Bell Media and the NFL a new leave to appeal the CRTC decision. A court date has not yet been announced.

“We continue to hope this issue will be resolved, either by the CRTC or through the pending review in the courts,” said MacDonald.

“It’s an arbitrary decision, based on a limited number of formal complaints about advertising readily available in Canada on the internet, and the regulator is willing to eliminate an advertising platform for Canadian businesses to the detriment of the current rights holder and the Canadian economy overall, all without oversight on advertising standards.”

Canadian advertisers, too, have voiced their support for Bell Media, with Canadian Media Directors’ Council president Michele Pauchuk saying the industry is “deeply concerned” that one of the country’s largest ad platform is being eliminated to appease a “tiny fraction” of Canadians wishing to watch U.S. ads during the Super Bowl.

“The fact that this particular decision singles out only the Super Bowl as the exception is as perplexing as it is troubling, and it creates significant uncertainty and lost opportunity for homegrown advertisers,” said Pauchuk in a statement.

According to Bell Media, the federal regulator receives only about 100 complaints about the availability of U.S. commercials during the Super Bowl, which works out to just 0.0001% of Canadian viewers officially taking issue with not being able to watch U.S. commercials.

MacDonald said that the decision could have significant repercussions, particularly as U.S. ads are not required to adhere to Canadian advertising codes – leading to a potential for “breaches” of Canadian ad standards with no recourse for Canadian viewers.

He added that ad revenue derived from the Super Bowl also goes towards Canadian productions, while inventory within the telecast is also earmarked for promotion of Canadian series that have included the likes of Saving Hope, The Social and The Amazing Race Canada (last year’s broadcast featured promotional airtime valued at $4 million, said MacDonald).

While he would not say if Super Bowl inventory was completely sold out, MacDonald said that advertiser demand for the telecast – which last year attracted a record 9.2 million viewers on CTV and RDS – was consistent with previous years.

“The Super Bowl remains the premiere advertising opportunity in Canada for Canadian businesses, and the high degree of interest in the broadcast reflects that,” he said. “We are on track to hit our revenue targets.”

MacDonald also told Marketing that CTV is seeing advertising trends consistent with previous years, with a high degree of interest from the automotive, financial services and film categories.

Several advertisers will be familiar to Canadian viewers, with Labatt Breweries of Canada returning as presenting sponsor (a deal that includes billboards and what MacDonald described a “multitude of spots”) and both Nissan Canada and Toyota Canada returning as quarter sponsors.

Advertisers set to unveil new creative during the telecast include Doritos Canada, which is announcing the winner of the 10th annual “Crash the Super Bowl Contest;” Hyundai Canada with an ad for the all-new Elantra; and Nestlé Canada with an ad for its new bigger KitKat bar.

Returning advertisers include Burger King; Mazda Canada; President’s Choice and President’s Choice Financial; Scotiabank; Sun Life Financial and Volkswagen Canada. The long list of newcomers to the telecast includes BMO, Chartered Professional Accountants, GlaxoSmithKline, Mackenzie Investments and Wealthsimple, with new creative for its “Take Care of Yourself” campaign.

Correction: In the original version of this story, Burger King, Mazda Canada, President’s Choice and President’s Choice Financial, Scotiabank, Sun Life Financial and Volkswagen Canada were listed as “returning sponsors,” instead of “returning advertisers.” Marketing regrets the error.

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