x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The millions made when play stops at the NFL Super Bowl

Money is to be made by advertisers during the interval of the Super Bowl.

Madonna will appear during the half-time show at the Super Bowl.
Madonna will appear during the half-time show at the Super Bowl.

From politics to musical tastes, from views on morality to education, Americans are a splintered bunch. An increasingly diverse society finds less common ground than did previous generations.

It takes a sports event on the first Sunday of each February for many of them to get on the same page. The Super Bowl has grown into an unofficial national holiday, with citizens from all walks giving their attention to a football game that, in many ways, reflects the country that embraces it.

The US population is estimated at 313 million. The audience for the 46th NFL Super Bowl is projected at 115 million, according to the research firm Horizon Media, meaning more than one of every three Americans would be watching at any time.

At least 5.1 million will purchase a new television for the occasion, predicted the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, a hint that ardent fans will not allow difficult economic times to interfere with prime entertainment.

The trade group, citing a survey, concluded that 173 million - more than half of the nation - will tune in at some point. Nothing else in the country comes close to capturing such a vast congregation. Viewers are even willing to sit through commercials, which they customarily skip over these days, thanks to the magic of DVR and the remote-control pause buttons.

Then again, advertisers who spend an average of US$3.5 million (Dh12.9m) for a half-minute spot treat the clips as mini-TV episodes, hiring prominent directors and actors for the production.

Thus does the Super Bowl becomes several shows wrapped into one, especially with the half-time extravaganza that features musical artists in the fourth quarter of their careers. (Warming up: Madonna!)

It is all presented free of charge, except to the 70,000 or so mostly well-off who dig deep to pay for precious tickets. The list prices are staggering enough, ranging from $800 to $1,200. Yet most buyers spend more, shopping from legalised ticket brokers because no seats are made available directly to the public.

How the brokers wind up with so many tickets that the league turns over to teams offers a case study of a free-enterprise system on steroids.

Early last week, the primary re-sellers were asking an average of $3,982 per seat.

Paying such sums for anything less than a landing of aliens from outer space is unfathomable to the vast majority of Americans whose belts are pulled tight from the recession.

Cultural observers might point to the Super Bowl divide - those watching in-person or on TV - as an example of the wealth disparity.

Those who cannot afford access to the stadium do not seem to mind. According to the advertising/marketing association, 63.6 million plan to enjoy the game in the festive atmosphere of a party.

Of course, the contemporary measure of interest on any topic is the amount of buzz on social media. A survey by the online stock trader E-Trade indicated that one-third of Super Bowl viewers will be chatting on Facebook or Twitter.

For most Americans, politics and morality and education will be set aside for one evening, at least, though Madonna surely will prompt fresh debates about music.