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Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl News and Blues


Nielsen Company announced the 2011 Super Bowl XLV ratings make it the most watched game (in America) in the history of the NFL. The last five Super Bowl games have all topped more than 90 million viewers. Until 2005, only five of the previous 39 Super Bowls had surpassed that mark.


The Super Bowl -- the greatest American sports event. From relatively humble beginnings in 1967 with the contest between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Super Bowl has burgeoned into the "Big Game" with the biggest hype. The idea of hyping itself used to be something the NFL looked down upon as tacky and pushy. But, over the years, what has the Super Bowl really become? The state of the AFL-NFL World Championship Game in 2011 deserves review.

Is this a game for the fans? A ticket for Super Bowl XLV, the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, can range between $2,100 and $8,000, according to Ram Silverman of Golden Tickets. StubHub reported the average cost of a Super Bowl ticket was $3,559. Most certainly, the cost for most fans is usually prohibitive, as attendees have to vie for hotel rooms that are sometimes booked years in advance and pay for airfare where discount priced seats are impossible to find. The average American wanting to take the family? Forget about it.

Is the game commercially controlled? A survey by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association found the average U.S. consumer is expected to spend $59.33 on Super Bowl XLV game-related merchandise, apparel and food. Total Super Bowl spending is expected to reach $10.1 billion.(Marketwire, MSNBC, February 3 2011) Reuters confirmed that the 2011 Super Bowl commercials cost around $3 million dollars for a 30 second spot.

  
The Direction of the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl has become so big that the National Football League is considering giving the game its own three-day weekend. It's true. Joe Flint of The Los Angeles Times reported, "One scenario making the rounds at the league is that if the NFL gets the green light from the players to expand its regular season from 16 to 18 games, President’s Day weekend will probably become the permanent home of the Super Bowl. Of course the players are against expanding the schedule...."

“It’s going to be unbelievable,” predicted NBC Universal Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, whose network pays $660 million a year to carry the NFL’s  Sunday night football package. “ I think that’s a pretty attractive idea,” echoed Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports, which shells out $650 million annually for its package of games. (Joe Flint, "How the NFL Turned the Super Bowl Into a Phenomenon," The Los Angeles Times, February 4 2011)

Flint explained that the Super Bowl's rise to top of national pop culture events is no accident, but rather due to a savvy marketing strategy that has been amped up over recent years. "It has been one of the most profoundly effective media and public relations events that has ever been built in the United States," said Daniel T. Durbin, an associate professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, of the NFL's marketing prowess.
 
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a no-nonsense reputation that doesn't kowtow to star athletes. In the light of bad news about Vick, Farve, Roethisberger, and the medical risks of concussions, Goodell promotes the league. He wants people to see a collection of players and an overall presentation, not the few bad headlines. Goodell is keenly aware of the powerful role of marketing to create increased public approval of the NFL.

Still, one may ask if the actual football game is taking a secondary role to Super Bowl hype and promotion. The NFL is certainly reluctant to think of the league as a "brand." The National Football League believes nothing promotes the NFL better than watching a game. Is that changing?

Has the Super Bowl become an overall spectacle that takes more and more attention away from the actual contest between two deserving teams?  Dancers, light shows, guest entertainers, commercial releases, glitz and glamour -- the entire media circus is money driven and carefully choreographed for maximum revenue. It seems the overall success of the Super Bowl now depends not so much on the performance of the teams as upon the "taste" in the mouth of the consumer after the confetti flies and the commercials cease.


How Has the NFL Widened Super Bowl Promotion?

1. The NFL is doing more and more to promote football to women.


2. The NFL is savvy to promoting watching football, specifically the Super Bowl, as a patriotic act.


3. The NFL covers much more than just X’s and O’s of football; instead, they promote talking about life and challenges off the field for the players and coaches and in some cases, even the cities.


4. The media and the NFL promote increasingly more risque ads as acceptable.


Personal Tastes

The final score of Super Bowl XLV, 2011 between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers was Packers 31, Steelers 25. The game was well-matched and exciting to the finish. Both the Steelers and the Packers played spirited, determined football much to the delight of football fans. Both teams also appeared to show the best of sportsmanship in the game.

In the end, turnovers plagues the Steelers, and The Vince Lombardi trophy returned to Green Bay. This particular Sunday, Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was brilliant, winning the Most Valuable Player recognition and establishing himself as the newest NFL quarterback star.

So, what about the Super Bowl extras? Well, two hype areas, to me, were particularly sub par.

First, was the singing of the National Anthem. Chad Finn summarized the performance well: "Forget about Christina Aguilera botching the words. Like countless others before her, she confused the national anthem with a torch song, occasionally screeching needless extension of notes, turning the anthem into an ordeal lasting more than a minute and fifty seconds. Trust me: anything clocking in over 1:30 is sure to be a disaster. Were she an auditioning contestant on 'American Idol,' Randy would have told her she was 'pitchy,' and I doubt if they would have sent her to LA. (Chad Finn, "Super Bowl Host City Shouldn't Leave You Cold," The Boston Globe, February 7 2011)
 
Then, there was the halftime performance. Now, no one has ever accused the Black Eyed Peas of writing great, meaningful songs or musical masterworks. But, this show depended too much on studio effects and engineering. The pop sound and the performance was less than powerful. The entire halftime seemed to depend on an immense light show featuring about a zillion flashing bulbs attached to choreographed dancers.

The Peas were dressed in some rubberized, cheesy spacesuits, and they performed with hesitancy. Slash was inserted in one of their songs, most likely in an effort to win the approval of rock fans. The most interesting part of the show was the formation of lights and various symbols. The batteries, alone, must have cost a ton.

Saul Relative gave this accurate review: "First of all, the audio was poorly rendered, which is nothing new during a televised Black Eyed Peas event. Still, this was the Super Bowl, and you would think that getting it at least passably right would have been a priority. Although the group cannot be faulted for the technical aspects of the broadcast, what they put into the microphones during their performance was entirely under their control.

"Unadorned, the Black Eyed Peas would have been better off had they hired 'American Idol' audition rejects and passed the performance off as one big Super Bowl joke. Instead, the worst Super Bowl halftime show ever was a distracting light show that didn't distract enough from the flat and somewhat atonal singing and rapping emanating from the four people on stage." (Saul Relative, "Black Eyed Peas Illuminated as Worst Super Bowl Halftime Show Ever," www.associatedcontent.com, February 7 2011)

"If it's the ultimate game, how come they're playing it again next year?" -Cowboys, Duane Thomas
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