Super Bowl 2012: the Economic Footprint of Our National Holiday

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Super Bowl 2012:  the Economic Footprint of Our National Holiday
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The Super Bowl isn’t a game. It’s an American institution. It's big, bold and unique stars and stripes. The event sprung from the loins of our great land, and this year’s teams couldn’t be more symbolic of the idea.

The New England Patriots versus the New York Giants. Red, White and Blue vs. Red, White and Blue. A super-orgasmic display of the United States. It’s the quintessential All-American play caller Tom Brady, staring down the closest thing the country has to a monarchy in Eli Manning, prince of the Royal Family of Football.

He’ll be playing in his brother’s castle in Indianapolis, which boasts a war memorial downtown and army base on it’s Northeast side. This year’s game promises to be better than ever.  As you watch the “Old Coot” trying to out-coach the “Old Hoodie”, consider this: More people watch the game than voted in the past presidential election.

According to TreeHugger.com, there will be an average of 17 people at any given party. Chances are those people will have had made plans 41 days before the game. This fact suggests that the numbers of fair-weather viewers following their teams are a nominal group. Also, the majority of the people gathering around flat screens across the country are there for the larger social ritual.

Only two of the 32 teams in the league are in the game. So probability dictates that most of the people watching aren’t fans of either team, but rather—fans of the game. The game isn’t really a game however, but an event that transcends sports.

In truth, the Super Bowl is an American holiday. It possesses three-unique elements that conspire to pull in an incredibly diverse demographic of viewers. There are the ads, the concert and of course the game.

 

 

The game itself isn’t just a three and a half hour event replete with the national anthem and a pre-game show of our nation’s military’s might. There’s day-of-programming starting early in the morning, preceded by two full weeks of focused media attention and collateral packages of content to prime the pump of excitement.

If entertainment is the greatest export of the U.S., then the Super Bowl is the country’s flagship product.

Over 100 million people in 232 countries and territories speaking 34-different languages will watch Tom Brady try to avenge his Super Bowl XLII loss.

Fifty-million more viewers will tune into at least part of the game. If the game continues to grow as it has over the last decade, within 10 years don’t be surprised if 30-40 percent of the viewership is overseas. 

The Super Bowl achieves a Nielsen rating of 40-45, which is to say that 40-45 percent of households that have televisions—whether turned on or off—are watching the game. The number is three times as high as the NBA finals or the World Series.

Halftime has become a mini top-tier concert. This year boasting none other than our Grande dame of dance Madonna—with rumors of other powerhouse acts joining her on stage. Her pre-game warm-up acts are Kelly Clarkson singing the national anthem and Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, who will be performing pre-game festivities.

Credit: Creative Commons, madonnapicturesmadonna.net

Few things are more American than TV ads. If you find yourself in London, spend a few minutes clicking through the channels and take note of how few commercials you see. In a typical year’s game, there are over 45 minutes worth of advertising stitched into the fabric of the day. This year, each lucky company will dole out over $100,000 per second to run their ad—with each half-minute spot costing $3.5 million dollars.

 

 

The beauty of it all is the ads don’t detract from, but enhances the day’s experience. Football’s start and stop-tempo is perfectly structured for the infusion of these branded mini-movies. This is one of the main reasons UCLA economist Lee Ohanian suggests: “The Super Bowl is recession proof. And it will be for the foreseeable future.” 

Despite a brutal near-depression and slow recovery, the Super Bowl continues to grow in not only popularity, but economic dominance. This year’s game in Indianapolis will be the biggest and most expensive single sporting endeavor ever executed on American soil.

The economic footprint of the day has changed the flow of our economy. First quarter of a given year is traditionally the weakest quarter in the U.S. With folks recovering from holiday purchases, January through March has historically been written off—in economic terms. In the last decade however, the first quarter has started to show signs of life. In large part, some say it is due to the big game’s impact across the nation.

It’s the second-largest single day of food consumption in the year—trailing only Thanksgiving.  Pizza Hut, Dominos and Papa John’s receive twice as many phone calls than on any other day of the year. And beer is everywhere. Around the house and on televisions throughout the game. 

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

NBC will pull in well over $250 million dollars in ad revenue alone. In addition to the quarter of a billion dollars from sponsors. The prestige of airing the biggest game in the country networks traditionally exploit the advertising opportunities for their slate of shows, which is worth millions.

 

Viewers are watching the game more and more on large flat screens bought from box stores like Best Buy or Target. There were 2.9 million HD TVs bought specifically for the Super Bowl in 2009.

 

For those fortunate or foolish enough to attend the game, the numbers are downright silly. According to the online ticket price aggregator TiqIQ, the average price for a ticket in Indy is $3,984.73. That's 9.17 percent higher than last year’s average in Dallas at $3,649.91 and 71.07 percent higher than the price for Super Bowl XLIV in Miami $2,329.26. The highest asking price for this year’s game, as of Monday was $15,343 for a seat located in Section 113, Row three.

Anywhere between 250 and 400 million dollars is pumped into a local economy. In total, the big game’s economic footprint is estimated to be larger than the GDP of 25 nations.

The immediate financial cost of the game is one thing, but the long-term economic impact of the day’s event is another thing altogether. Super Bowl XLV in Dallas used enough energy to power 1,500 homes for a year, according to the Peachy Green website. That’s 310,000 pounds of carbon emissions within the stadium itself.  

Win McNamee/Getty Images

All those flat screen televisions consume over 10 million Kilowatts of electricity per hour of game time. Add in the nearly 200,000 kilowatts Lucas Oil Stadium will use in lighting, heating and otherwise sustaining the day, and the event will burn 50 million kilowatts of electricity off of our nation’s grids. 

However, the NFL is taking steps to offset the game’s environmental impact. The Super Bowl XLVI Indianapolis Host Committee has launched the first Green 2012 Super Bowl Environmental Challenge, that’s striving to reduce the consumption of water use in homes and the carbon footprint. 

 

Among other things, they reached their goal of planting 2,012 trees in and around Indianapolis by October. They continue the effort to this day, with over 2,800 and counting. One of the benefits of the trees is a 60 percent reduction in water and air pollution and a purported $250 annual energy savings—according to the Indianapolis Super Bowl website. Those trees also help to beautify an already lovely city, but if the true accounting is to take place—one needs to consider the remains of the day.

On the Monday following the Super Bowl, a reported seven million people stay home from work. That causes a large disruption to our nation’s productivity. In addition to the above the ground costs, the wear and tear put on treatment plants and landfills from the 325 million gallons of beer and 28 million pounds of potato chips consumed that day tend to show up years later. 

So enjoy yourself during this year’s Super Bowl rematch between the Patriots and Giants. It’s only American.

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