The NFL’s recent selections of halftime-show headliners for the Super Bowl has (with the notable exception of last year’s Black Eyed Peas performance) have trended towards acts a decade or more past their popularity peak. This year’s star is no exception, but negative reaction to Madonna has dwarfed anything the others have received.
In a joint study and project conducted by Advertising Age and Networked Insights, it revealed a whopping 45 percent of social media comments about Madonna’s selection have focused on what a poor fit she is for the Super Bowl. Other major themes the poll noted include complaints about her "very inconsistent and irritating" British accent she’s adopted and about her looking less like a stereotypical starlet and more like the 53-year-old that she is.
None of these observations can possibly come as a surprise to the NFL (or broadcast partner NBC, which the article notes was also involved in the selection Madonna). As popular as the Material Girl still is, her major fanbase has little overlap with the audience for a Patriots-Giants contest, and her music—football imagery in her newly-released video for “Gimme All Your Luvin’” notwithstanding—is far from stadium fare.
Indeed, the disconnect between the performer and the game’s audience may be much the point. Another telling set of top conversations/comments found in the study involves Madonna’s presence being a “very transparent attempt to capture larger female audience.”
Such a move would certainly be in keeping with the NFL’s other recent attempts to woo female fans, such as the NFL.com/women (apparel) section on the league’s website. The league’s strategy has consistently assumed that women can’t possibly become interested in football qua football, and thus that the only way to keep their attention is with stereotyped ploys like pink versions of team jerseys or inserting a 12-minute Madonna concert in the middle of a game like the proverbial spoonful of sugar.
Perhaps if the NFL started treating female fans as actual fans rather than an alien species known as “women,” it would stop insulting their intelligence and earn some goodwill from everyone who wants to watch some great football, like the one on tap for tomorrow.