Sunday, January 21, 2007

NFL Matchups Give CBS a Big Kick [Holly Sanders]

This is from Holly Sanders, New York Post -

No matter what two teams advance to the Super Bowl after this weekend, CBS and the NFL will be winners.

The best game to deliver big ratings on Feb. 4 would be the Chicago Bears against the New England Patriots, featuring teams in two of the top five TV markets.

But all four teams in the conference championships - including the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts - offer star players and compelling stories for an added hook.

"It's a unique year in that each team carries with it a national story with a good angle," said Bill Glenn, vice president of insights and analytics at The Marketing Arm.

When it comes to sports spectaculars like the Super Bowl and the Olympics, tales of adversity and team legacies play a powerful role in attracting national audiences and advertisers.

The Patriots have star power with quarterback Tom Brady and the team's Super Bowl success, including the championship in 2004.

Then there's the saga of Peyton Manning, the quarterback for the Colts, who gets his team into the postseason most years but never into the Super Bowl.

After the devastation Hurricane Katrina wrought, the rebuilt Saints are the comeback story. The team was so bad until this year that fans used to call them the 'Aints and sit in the stands with bags covering their heads.

The Bears are, well, Da Bears, and the team hasn't made it to the big game in more than two decades.

In some cases, the potential matchups are even more tantalizing. Consider the Colts v. the Saints: Manning would go up against the team that his dad, Archie, played for and that he grew up rooting for.

The extra oomph could be just what CBS needs to sell out ad time during the big game. With the network asking a record $2.6 million for a 30-second spot, advertisers appear to be holding out longer than usual this year before committing.

More marketers are expected to jump on board after this weekend, in time to capitalize on all the promos and publicity leading up to Super Sunday. CBS, though, insists that ad sales are strong.

"There's a reason why they've been so giddy this last week," said David Carter, a principal at the Sports Business Group.

"You have incredibly intriguing matchups no matter what happens."

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