Super Bowl license fees gave synch execs something to cheer about. The three-hour CBS telecast included commercial tracks featuring Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” in an Amazon spot secured through Sony/ATV and The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” steering the action for Toyota Supra, via Spirit Music Group.
Sony/ATV led the pack with eight national commercials and a Florida regional, for a total of nine. Universal Music Publishing Group and Kobalt each had seven and BMG had five national spots and a regional in Los Angeles. Warner/Chappell didn’t share its tally but had at least four spots.
The Bumble dating ad featuring Rita Ora’s “Soul Survivor” at 11 minutes in was the first ear candy, and Sony/ATV, Kobalt and Warner/Chappell all had a bite. Ten minutes later came the flashy Chance the Rapper/Backstreet Boys dazzler for Doritos, a brand with more than $1 billion in annual revenues that put some of that green on the screen. The ad, featuring the acts cavorting in an airport tarmac and hangar suggestive of the late ’90s video, included custom rapping from Chance, who joins the Boys in a choreographed “I Want It That Way.” Tag line: “The original. Now it’s hot.” Kobalt had 100 percent of the spot, said Jeannette Perez, president of global synch and brand partnerships,” calling it “a tentpole ad for a tentpole marketing moment.”
Doritos is part of PepsiCo, and Kobalt also had a piece of the Pepsi spot featuring Cardi B and “I Like It,” shared with Sony/ATV, Universal and BMG. The Super Bowl commands premium synch rates, due to the large audience. Publishers agreed license fees held steady with 2018. Synchs for desirable tunes can command anywhere from $100,000 to about $1 million on the publishing side, with a like amount to the labels if an artist’s original master recording is used. “The more evergreen the song, the more leverage you have to negotiate a rate that protects the copyright value of that song,” Perez said.
Sony/ATV president of worldwide marketing Brian Monaco said that means charging a base rate, no matter how tiny a sliver of song used. “Because nobody wants to use the same track as another brand” for the Super Bowl, where 100 million are watching. Even if it’s not a direct competitor, “it’s out there,” Monaco said. “You have to be very careful about supporting your writers and artists because it could take it off the table for future licenses.” The “Pinball Wizard” commercial use coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Tommy album. Another iconic statement, Bob Dylan’s master recording of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” lent an authentic touch of Americana to Budweiser’s folksy Clydesdales ad.
Fewer commercials overall (60 compared to 83 last year, according to iSpot TV) meant fewer brand synchs. T- Mobile was one of the big spenders, with a flight of four music-fueled ads that covered a lot of ground — from Dean Martin’s 1953 hit “That’s Amore” (Sony/ATV) to 1988’s “She Drives Me Crazy” by the Fine Young Cannibals (UMPG ). In between there was a pair of ’70s hits: Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” (Warner/Chappell) and Walter Murphy’s disco-classic “A Fifth of Beethoven” (BMG), the latter teed-up by the attention-getting “Sprach Zarathustra” (made famous in the opening to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey).
“Sprach,” a 19th century Richard Strauss tune, was from production music house APM, which itself had some six to eight synchs, though at significantly lower rates than the pop houses.
If there was a Super Bowl award for most unusual cover version, BMG would be a 2019 contender for its London Symphony Orchestra master recording of the song “Gloria” (written by Umberto Tozzi in 1979 and popularized by Laura Branigan in 1982) on an Amazon Alexa spot featuring Broad City actresses Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer getting shot out of a hot tub. “They liked the symphonic version of the song, because it’s so over-the-top,” said BMG senior director of marketing and commercials Charlie Davis.
Davis was also jazzed to have Karen O’s cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” in an ad for Amazon’s new series Hanna. “Karen got the placement, working directly with the creators of the show, but we’re involved because we’re putting out Karen’s album with Danger Mouse in March.” Kobalt had the publishing half of that song with writer Billy Corgan.
UMPG’s Tom Eaton said brand tastes are wide when it comes to Super Bowl creative. “The songs are all over the board, from TV themes to current radio hits to classics and even new material.” Toyota Rav4 featured the song “Stronger” by Nashville newcomer Anna Mae in an impact spot featuring female football player Toni Harris. “We’re really excited about it because it’s such an amazing platform for an up-and-coming artist and an unknown song. The opportunity to debut a song in a commercial on the Super Bowl is incredible.”
UMPG also collected the license fee for all 10 half-time songs. Other standout placements for Universal include Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones main title theme, used in a humorous Bud Light spot that saw a jousting “Bud Knight” felled by GoT’s the Mountain (with a tag line touting the last season of the HBO show). UMPG also licensed the Sex and the City theme for Stella Artois. Another very high-profile placement, Fatman Scoop’s 2000 rap track “It Takes Scoop” ( feat. Crooklyn Clan) was the soundtrack to the elaborate and entertaining 100th NFL Season promo that led into off half time.
Promos were in fact up significantly this year, according to iSpot.tv, which tracked 33 this year, compared to 19 in 2018. With few exceptions, the promos were used by CBS to tout shows like the new talent competition The World’s Best, hosted by James Corden, and The 61st Annual Grammy Awards, hosted by Alicia Keys, who recorded custom spots for the event. “She brought her 15 Grammys and we shot them, too,” said CBS marketing group president George Schweitzer. “We worked really hard on our promos, and we even threw in a football game and some commercials,” he joked, pivoting back to the point at hand. “The Grammys are a very important franchise for us, and the Super Bowl is a great way to go from the world’s biggest sports event to the world’s biggest music event.”