Advertisers dropped about $4.5 million per 30-second spot aired during the Super Bowl 49 broadcast. The premiere buy placed their advertisement in front of approximately 115 million consumers who tuned in to the Big Game. This year, advertisers are expected to ante up, paying an eye-popping $5 million price tag. Assuming a similar viewership, that will provide Super Bowl 50 advertisers with a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) of $43.47.

Of course, the reason for spending big on a Super Bowl ad goes far beyond a simple CPM calculations. The Super Bowl provides a unique platform for ads, in which they are not an interruption, but part of the main attraction. Executed correctly, the ads earn instant notoriety and buzz from millions of consumers. Marketers and top-notch creative agencies have the opportunity to start a nationwide conversation, giving their spot an infinitely longer shelf life than that of a normal advertisement.

Regardless of the game-changing value of these ads, $5 million and a $43 CPM is still a lot for media buyers to shell out. Should this discourage advertisers with stand-out creative and fully capable budgets? Absolutely not. But it should encourage marketing teams to maximize the potential of such an investment.

Give Athletes the Mic

If you’re advertising during the Super Bowl — or any sporting event — odds are that you want to reach and impact sports fans. Fans like their team, their leagues, and the journalists who cover them. But who do fans really care about, and thus, follow in droves on social media? The players.

Whether you’re running a multi-million dollar Super Bowl campaign, or a simply want to join the #SB50 conversation, athlete social media activations can — and should — be a part of your plan to reach sports fans.

Here’s the good news: brands can partner with the most influential athletes in the world for a fraction of the cost of a Super Bowl ad. Rather than spending over $4o per thousand impressions, the average opendorse athlete influencer campaign reaches one thousand impressions for under $6. Multiply that a few times, and you will find that reaching 1 million passionate fans can cost marketers around $6 thousand.

Amplify & Engage

Brands that are making the big spend on traditional Super Bowl media don’t have to stop there. They can amplify their investment in a cost-effective, fan-targeted manner with athlete distribution. Advertisers can add millions of social impressions, encouraging interaction and engagement from fans of the athletes.

Smaller Budget, Big Opportunity

Marketers without super-sized budgets no longer have to sit out #SB50 due to this cost-efficient and effective option. Whether it’s on television, outdoor signage, or social media, great creative will be noticed with proper distribution. Great content needs to be seen and the Super Bowl is a great opportunity to make it happen. 82% of fans planned to check social media channels during last year’s game. Athlete sponsored social endorsements allow marketers to place their content in front of engaged sports fans at a fraction of the traditional cost.

The New Media

A recent article by Laundry Service CEO Jason Stein explained the link between media and influence:

“All media is an advertisement to users and advertisers that a transaction is worthwhile.”

Traditionally, influence is built in media by sharing content that appeals to an audience. The better, more engaging the content, the bigger the audience grows. From physical magazines, to social media influencers, the more people who consume the content, the more valuable that media is. For this reason, magazines, websites, and social media stars have strived to share the very best content in order to grow their audience and, in turn,  become more valuable. For athletes, however, the content is slightly different. For every other media company, value is derived from what is created and shared — their content. For athletes, though, much of their media value is instead measured in performance. Whereas Sports Illustrated took decades to grow a readership valuable enough for advertisers to buy, sports stars can earn a worthwhile social media following with one breakout performance. The more high profile performances, the more followers they tend to gain.

Generally speaking, the more productive a player is on the field, the more valuable their media is off of it. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, as the occasional personality will eclipse an athlete’s on-court production.

More than any sports-related entity, players are inarguably the most followed and most influential creators. Adding athletes to a stand-alone or existing multimedia campaign will add massive reach and added credibility.

Breaking Through the Brand Bowl

Prior to last year’s Super Bowl, Darren Heitner reported that fans felt pretty “Meh” about what brands had to say during the game on social media:

“Only 12% of consumers planning to watch Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks are interested in what brands are saying on social media.”

While only 12 percent claimed to want to hear from marketers, 82 percent of fans planned to check social media or news outlets, with 37 percent planning to make five or more posts during the game.

Clearly, the audience is there. However, today’s savvy consumer may be growing numb to marketer commentary. While brands should remain active in the Super Bowl 50 conversation (12% of the Super Bowl audience is still massive), marketers clearly need to consider alternate plans for social media distribution. Without employing sponsored social activations from athletes, ambassadors, or relevant influencers, brands risk missing out on a buzzing, engaged Super Bowl audience.