The logo of Super Bowl 50 in 2016, one of the most-watched events in television history and one of the most-promoted events in American sports history.

The logo for Super Bowl 50, which will be played at Levi’s Stadium on Feb. 7, 2016.

The Super Bowl is often the most-watched television event of the year and with that distinction comes unparalleled advertising opportunities. Cal State Fullerton Marketing Professor Steven Chen discusses the marketing and cultural impact of the Super Bowl.

This Sunday, the freeways and city streets will be quiet as tens of millions of Americans gather with friends and family to watch the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers face off at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., for Super Bowl 50, the golden anniversary of America’s defining annual sports championship.

“The Super Bowl is the king of sports events,” Mihaylo Marketing Professor Steven Chen says. “Nothing compares to its viewership, cultural impact and marketing scope in the U.S.”

In 2015, 115 million people watched Super Bowl XLIX, making it the most watched television broadcast in the nation’s history. By comparison, an average of only 14.7 million people watched each of the World Series games last year. “The Super Bowl is a one-game event, which adds to the excitement and interest level, compared to the multi-game championships for baseball, basketball and hockey,” he notes.

Steven Chen, a Mihaylo College marketing professor, provides a look at the marketing behind America's annual sports holiday, the Super Bowl.

Mihaylo Marketing Professor Steven Chen notes that while the Super Bowl is immensely popular in the U.S., its international support is still small compared to the World Cup of soccer.

Does the High Cost of Advertising Pay Off?

Chen says that while marketers invest a huge amount of time and finances into Super Bowl advertisements with no guarantee that their messages will resonate with viewers, the gamble usually pays off. “The Super Bowl represents a very large monetary outlay,” he says. “But in terms of risk and cost per impression, it is actually a sound investment. Factor in the $4 million outlay for a 30-second spot and divide by 115 million viewers. The cost per impression is only 3.5 cents. The catch is that your company needs to have $4 million to spend.”

The high cost can be regarded as an investment in brand recognition, since a company’s advertisement can take on a life of its own in popular culture, newscasts and social media. Last year’s Super Bowl was the most tweeted game in NFL history and was discussed by 65 million Facebook users. These records are likely to be eclipsed this year as smartphone use during the big game increases.

Make Your Own Super Bowl Commercial

Among the most innovative Super Bowl advertisement strategies is the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl. Now in its 10th year, the contest gives consumers the chance to create their own Doritos advertisement, such as this year’s Doritos Dogs finalist video, with the winning submission airing during the game. A complete list of advertisers for this year’s game is available online at AdAge.

Future Marketing Opportunities for the NFL

Despite the Super Bowl’s primacy in the U.S., Chen sees room for NFL football to grow both domestically and internationally. “The NFL may introduce products complementing live sporting events. Some examples include expanding into ‘product extensions’ such as endorsed fantasy leagues, increased licensing and joint ventures with sports gambling products,” he says. “The international support for the soccer World Cup, which had more than 3 billion viewers globally in 2014, demonstrates that there is ample room for the NFL to expand Super Bowl marketing in numerous foreign markets where American football is not yet a major sport.” The majority of the Super Bowl’s international viewers are in Canada and Mexico, leaving South America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa as largely untapped markets.

Why is the Super Bowl in February Now?

While the Super Bowl has risen in popularity over the last two decades to become America’s premier sports event, the date of the annual game has changed from January to February.

The change is due to the NFL season beginning the week following Labor Day, the addition of a week off between the conference championships and the Super Bowl and the decision to move the annual Pro Bowl ahead of the Super Bowl, ensuring that the big game gets center stage.

For Chen’s discussion of the return of the Rams NFL franchise to Los Angeles, see this report from CSUF News. For more on Mihaylo’s marketing programs, visit the Department of Marketing at SGMH 5214 or online.

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