The Super Bowl: Not Just for Football Fans

The Super Bowl is perennially one of the most-watched TV events around the world, so it’s no surprise that millions of people find reasons to be interested in the big game other than the football itself. When the Patriots take on the Falcons at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday, many of us will have decided to make the event a little more interesting with a friendly wager. This week my colleague Michelle Minton wrote, for U.S. News & World Report, about the millions of Americans who will be excitedly breaking the law:

As many as half of all Super Bowl viewers will make some kind of a wager on the outcome of the game, according to estimates and polling data. But the vast majority of these gamblers are blissfully unaware that, unless they are placing their bet with a licensed bookmaker in Nevada, they are violating federal statute. This is because of the somewhat obscure Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 – a prohibition on sports gambling designed, according to its proponents, to protect the integrity of the game. But when millions of Americans, from the janitor at your office building to the president of the United States, openly admit to breaking the law – and with little or few adverse effects – maybe it’s time to reconsider it.

Second only to betting on the game is the time-honored tradition of checking out the latest TV ads that brands and agencies have come up with. Super Bowl spots have been known to inspire inverse viewership – people who ignore the game and only pay attention to the commercials. And, of course, they’re known for being the most expensive buys on broadcast television. Sports Illustrated reports:

According to Variety, Fox is charging marketers anywhere between $5 million and $5.5 million for a 30-second ad this year. This cost does not depend on the two teams that actually take the field on Feb. 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston—Fox sold 90% of its commercial slots by December, before the Patriots or Falcons had reached the Super Bowl.

For comparison, the average price of a 30-second ad during Game 7 of this year’s historic World Series was just over $500,000. The price for a similar spot during the 2016 Oscars cost about $2 million.

Because of that huge audience, people like CEI founder Fred Smith have long been concerned about the message those ads are sending – to Americans as consumers, but also to us all as citizens:

From my perspective, business leaders are correct to be worried that half of their marketing dollars are going astray, but not necessarily in the way that Wanamaker meant. Traditional advertising focuses on increasing sales by getting “consumer eyes” on products and illustrating how those products advance the consumer’s self-interest. However, in today’s world, companies must concern themselves with how well they perform in two different worlds – the private, self-interest world of consumers, where product reputation is key, and the political, cultural-value world of citizens, where how the public views a company’s legitimacy is paramount. Selling your brand to customers is, unfortunately, only half of the equation. A company must also sell itself to citizens and the politicians they elect. With government regulations alone imposing some $2 trillion of costs on our economy every year, sustainable profitability requires that a firm’s ads reach both audiences.

While you’re processing the future of free markets (and cheering on your favorite team), you might also be reaching for some salty snacks or a cold beer. Michelle has you covered there, too: her recent study on sodium consumption suggests that strict government nutrition guidelines on salt in your diet are way off base, and her endorsement of lower excise taxes on craft brewers will have you high-fiving your buddies. Young ones and teetotalers can even celebrate her impassioned case for doing away with taxes on soda.