Georgia runoff creates sporting event advertising buzz, but won’t exceed previous spending

More than $31 million has been spent on television ads for Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, according to data compiled by The Hollywood Reporter from Medium Buying. 

More spending is anticipated as both candidates feverishly campaign for the Dec. 6 runoff that will determine whether Democrats grow their slim majority in the chamber to 51.

There is significant interest in ads during highly-watched sporting events, including a Saturday match-up between rivals the Georgia Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets, which will run nationally on ESPN, the Georgia Tech game at Iowa on Nov. 29, the Georgia LSU SEC Championship on Dec. 3 and the U.S.-Wales match in the World Cup, which aired on Monday.

30-second ad spots for the SEC championship game were running for $130,000, a discounted rate for political campaigns which cost more for affiliated Super PACS, according to Hollywood Reporter. 

But the news outlet suggests that despite an advertising rush on networks with exposure in Georgia, spending isn’t expected to be as lucrative as it was in the January 2021 runoff when Warnock first won election to the U.S. Senate. 

Then, two races were on the ballot and the outcome would determine control of the Senate, with Democrats securing the slimmest of majorities from Warnock’s victory and that of U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff. This year, only Warnock’s race is on the ballot, and Democrats have already maintained their 50/50 split majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. If Warnock again wins, they’d grow their majority to 51/49.

Meanwhile, Georgia voters have less time to cast a ballot this year than they did in the 2021 race, an outcome of new Georgia election rules that shorted the runoff race from two months to just four weeks. Runoffs in 2020, for example, clocked in at more than $500 million in ad spending, according to Hollywood Reporter. The outlet expects just $150-$200 million this cycle.

Nevertheless, Georgia voters, and those watching sports match-ups with connections to the Peach State, should expect to see plenty of Warnock and Walker ads during breaks from the action. That means viewers in neighboring states such as Florida, South Carolina and Alabama, will likely see political ads for the race in counties that overlap with those in Georgia. 

Warnock led Walker in the November General Election, but failed to reach the 50% vote threshold needed to avoid a runoff. With Dec. 6 now the target date to determine the race’s outcome, all eyes are on turning out voters, and reaching viewers during popular sporting events will be a major factor in reaching voters.

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