The Super Bowl: The Most Popular Sporting Event in the United States
Every year towards the end of January or the beginning of February, two football teams square off in a game that is watched by more viewers than any other sporting event in the country. The annual lead-in to the game begins two weeks beforehand, with endless analysis, interviews with the players, and side stories meant to build viewer interest in the game and the players themselves.
But the increased focus on the game is not limited to the National Football League or any of its many media extensions. Normal, everyday people, many of whom don’t watch football at all during the rest of the year, find themselves drawn into the hype and excitement.
The Spectacle That Is the Super Bowl in Many Households
Many fans go so far as to plan Super Bowl watch parties, making an all-day event out of a 3-hour game that, to be quite honest, many people don’t even pay that close of attention to. It is not uncommon, at least in households with only “casual” football fans, to find that the game is on in the background while the people socialize.
What’s more, many large companies spend huge amounts of money for advertising during the Super Bowl. With a 30-second advertisement running more than $5 million, some companies spend a largely disproportionate amount of their marketing budget on advertisements for the Super Bowl.
But the money seems to be well worth it: watching Super Bowl commercials has developed into an actual cultural phenomenon in the United States. Many radio shows, Internet streaming channels, and other media professionals spend at least a portion of the next day reviewing and ranking Super Bowl ads. What’s more, a not insignificant number of consumers watch the Super Bowl not for the game itself, but for the commercials.
In addition to the watch parties and resource-intensive commercial lineup, there is the matter of the halftime show. The Super Bowl halftime show has long been a spectacle in and of itself. For every other game during the year, halftime shows are not even televised, and are minimalist affairs aimed to keep the crowd occupied during the 15 minutes between the second and third quarters. But for the Super Bowl, the halftime show is given its own time slot and is included in the broadcast lineup. What’s more, halftime shows for the Super Bowl carry a preparation time and expense that exceeds what many would spend putting on a full-fledged concert.
Finally, in the realm of sports gambling, the Super Bowl is king. While Americans have long been placing wagers on pretty much anything imaginable, they really step up when it comes to the Super Bowl. For Super Bowl LII, it is estimated that Americans will wager nearly $5 billion.
And yet, for all its commercial success, the Super Bowl is just a football game. After the glitzy halftime show, the pricey commercials, and the all-day viewing parties, it is at its core three hours of a game that viewers can see during any given weekend from August through December. So why is the Super Bowl so popular? What is it about this game, among the many others, that makes it “must see” viewing for so many people? There are a number of reasons for this, some of them having to do with the societal structure of our country.
The Super Bowl Has Become a Social Event Just as Much as a Sporting One
As noted above, many people throw an all-day party to celebrate the Super Bowl. While some of them are undoubtedly die-hard fans of football, many others are not. In fact, at least some of the people who hold Super Bowl parties don’t particularly care that much for the game of football. Others, while holding an interest in specific football teams, don’t care that much for the teams that are playing in a given Super Bowl.
Yet, for a number of reasons, the Super Bowl has developed into a social event for many. This, in turn, fosters an environment where viewership of the game consistently ranks among the highest of any single television event for the year.
The Super Bowl is the Last Chance for Football
When it comes to those who love watching football, the Super Bowl represents their last chance to enjoy the game they love for more than half of a year. College football winds down months prior to the Super Bowl, and the professional league sits dormant from the moment the Super Bowl game clock hits 0:00 until August.
This means that, for the football-starved person, the Super Bowl is the final event. This contributes to heightened viewership among those football fans who may not particularly care about either team playing in the game, but who will watch nonetheless.
The Timing of the Super Bowl
Another thing that contributes to the popularity of the game is where it falls on the calendar. For many people living in the United States, the months of December through March can be very difficult. It’s frequently too cold or dreary outside to suit many outdoor activities, and people are looking for a diversion.
Given that it is played a month after the Christmas holiday, it falls into the part of the year that is lacking of entertainment and during which people, unable to do much outdoors, are desperately looking for something to do. All these factors combine to boost viewership of the Super Bowl beyond what it would be if it were held at a different time of the year.
Making the Most of the Super Bowl
With all these factors, there is a good chance that many readers of this piece will be spending at least part of this year’s Super Bowl Sunday in front of the big game. Even if you don’t care that much for football, it’s a great way to spend an evening relaxing and enjoying the company of friends and family. And, if you do like football, this is your last chance to scratch that itch for the next several months. So, take some time, gather with some friends, and enjoy this year’s Super Bowl.
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