Most popular advertisers of Super Bowl LIII spend big political money

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During football’s biggest game that many have described as “
the worst Super Bowl ever,” “ugly” and “boring” and included a panned halftime show, some of the biggest draws and lasting memories might be the commercials and the celebrities in them. Corporations that can afford the always pricey airtime also stay engaged in the political arena through lobbying and campaign contributions. Here we take a look at the spending habits of the most popular advertisers from Super Bowl LIII.  

USA Today’s Ad Meter rankings give average scores to Super Bowl commercial ads based off of adult viewers who register to vote online. The system has existed since 1989 as a way to demonstrate how popular each ad was with the audience at home.

According to Ad Meter, the most popular ad, with an average rating of 7.69, was the NFL’s “The 100-Year Game” ad which ran at halftime. The NFL has a robust political presence, having spent a high of $1.64 million on lobbying and contributing  $760,691 in 2018.

In second place was Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes the Cut” ad for their Alexa device. Amazon contributed more than $13.5 million during the recent midterms. It also maintains a powerful PAC that spent more than $1.86 million in the 2018 cycle. One of the most prominent tech companies in the country, Amazon’s PAC gave slightly more to Republican candidates than Democratic ones in the last cycle. Twelve different House candidates, as ideologically varied as House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Freedom Caucus member Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), received $10,000 each.

Amazon, who spent much of 2018 picking a city in which to build their HQ2, maintained an impressive lobbying effort, spending a record high of $14.4 million in 2018. Yet this figure isn’t as large as how much Amazon spent on its two commercial spots last night. At the rate of $5.25 million per every 30 seconds, Amazon likely dropped around $26 million on ad space during the Super Bowl.

Microsoft, another tech company with plenty of clout, ranked third in the Ad Meter ratings for their feel-good “We All Win” ad. In all, Microsoft contributed more than $4.8 million and their PAC spent big too — $2 million in the 2018 cycle with a slight majority going to Republicans. Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) was their top recipient on the House side receiving $137,597 in contributions. Among the Senate candidates, former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) got $55,245 from the computer giant. Matching Amazon, Microsoft’s PAC gave $30,000 to the DCCC and the NRCC, plus $30,000 to the NRSC. In 2018, the company spent more than $9.5 million on lobbying efforts, their second-highest ever. Even that lobbying spending falls short of the estimated $10.5 million Microsoft likely spent Sunday night on its single ad spot.

Interestingly, Hyundai, who had the fourth-ranked ad, leaves a light political footprint. Neither Hyundai or Hyundai Motor America operate a PAC and individual contributions from each part of the company don’t exceed $5,000. They did spend just over $1 million on lobbying in 2018, their most ever, in a year where tariff policies affected most car companies. Hyundai’s 60-second spot ad “The Elevator” with actor Jason Bateman, cost more than its D.C. lobbying efforts with an estimated $10.5 million price tag.

Rounding out the top five was Verizon with a feel-good commercial celebrating first responders in “The Coach Who Wouldn’t Be Here.” Verizon is a big political spender, doling out almost $2.9 million in the 2018 cycle almost evenly split between parties. Their top recipient in the Senate was former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) with $27,040, and in the House it was Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) with $26,950. Of the top five commercials, Verizon spent the second most on lobbying, more than $12 million in 2018.

According to the Ad Meter data, the least popular Super Bowl ad, with a 3.63 rating, was Burger King’s “#EatLikeAndy” which featured archival footage of Andy Warhol eating a Whopper. Like their poorly received commercial, Burger King, an affiliate of 3G Capital, isn’t much of a political player anymore. The specific Burger King PAC no longer exists and last spent money in the 2012 cycle. 3G Capital only contributed $29,761 in the 2018 cycle. The company spent $400,000 in 2018 on lobbying.

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