The Wall Street Journal: Discount Super Bowl overtime ads pay off big for SoFi, three other firms

Social Finance Inc. via YouTube

A screenshot of SoFi’s Super Bowl overtime commercial, which was based on user-generated content and made for just $ 10,000.

Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady and the Fox broadcast network weren’t the only big winners Sunday night. The online lender Social Finance Inc. — known as SoFi — scored a last-second touchdown as well.

Before the game, SoFi had inked a deal with Fox to run a Super Bowl ad if — and only if — the matchup went into overtime. No Super Bowl in NFL history had ever extended beyond regulation play. SoFi said the ad option cost less than half of the roughly $ 5 million that Fox was charging for 30 seconds of commercial time during the game’s four quarters.

The company was one of at least four advertisers who committed upfront to buy these discounted ads. Hulu and Sprint ran ads during regulation, but also negotiated for overtime slots. Like SoFi, Proactiv, a direct marketer that sells acne-treatment products, only negotiated for an ad using the overtime option and didn’t air a commercial during regulation.

The way these deals work is that brands agree to authorize the ad buys, and Fox runs the ads if the game goes into overtime. If overtime never happens, no money ends up changing hands. As Super Bowl LI turned from what seemed on pace to be a blowout by the Atlanta Falcons into an epic comeback by the New England Patriots to force the game beyond regulation play, the marketers suddenly found themselves airing commercials to a captive audience of more than 100 million.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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