NFL

Super Bowl much more than a game

FOX Sports Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
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On Sunday, somewhere in the neighborhood of 106,000 people will swarm the high-security environs of Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Aided by a standing-room-only area outside the stadium doors, the crowd will most likely be the largest Super Bowl gathering ever.

Rick Horrow

ON THE GROUND

Sports business guru Rick Horrow is on the ground in Dallas. Check out his blog on the Super Bowl's impact on the Dallas economy.

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While that’s a big number, it’s less than .1 percent of the more than 106 million Americans anticipated to tune in to the Super Bowl XLV broadcast on FOX (FOX pregame at 2 p.m. ET, kickoff at 6 p.m.). Indeed, just like giant bags of Doritos, Subway sandwiches, Snickers bars and Budweiser beer, the Super Bowl is consumed by the masses, with the television set the delivery boy. And every year, just when we think we’ve seen everything the NFL’s broadcast partners and savvy sports marketers can possibly throw at us, they manage to surprise.

The broadcast and the ratings

Last year’s Super Bowl XLIV broadcast on CBS in which the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in a game that was close to the end, broke the long-standing viewership record held by the 1983 M*A*S*H* series finale. The popular question among media analysts this year is not whether FOX will break last year’s record, but by how many ratings points.

The classic Green Bay Packers-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup couldn’t be more "made for TV," as both franchises boast rabid national followings.

With Nielsen estimating that 2011 NFL playoff games drew an average of 37.7 million viewers and sub-freezing temperatures likely to keep more people in their homes than a typical Super Bowl Sunday, things certainly bode well for FOX.

Another indicator of TV might: FOX sold the last of its 30-second commercial spots for Sunday’s telecast way back in late October, despite the price tag of $3 million plus a commitment to buy additional time during pregame programming for each spot.

In all, FOX will broadcast 10 hours of pre- through postgame coverage, with its pregame show featuring the likes of Michael Douglas, Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler and FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly interviewing President Obama, and a halftime show starring the Black Eyed Peas. More than big names, however, FOX executives know that the key to breaking the all-time viewership record yet again is a thrilling contest on the field, with the score staying close deep into the fourth quarter. In the end, of course, it’s all up to the players.

Super Bowl player endorsement deals

What another measure of the power of the Super Bowl? Just look on the field.

Bloomberg, BusinessWeek.com and Horrow Sports Ventures last week released the 2011 Power 100, ranking athletes from all sports based on various on- and off-field metrics. Super Bowl XLV features four players in the top 100.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the highest-ranked among Sunday’s participants, coming in at No. 35. Though Rodgers does not have any major sponsors outside of Nike, he is the NFL's career passer-rating leader and deals should roll in after the Super Bowl. (The biggest benefactor of Rodgers' on-field success looks to be Packers receiver Greg Jennings, who ranked No. 45 on the Power 100.)

For the Steelers, defensive stalwarts Troy Polamalu and James Harrison ranked No. 45 and No. 97, respectively. Notably absent from the list is Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose off-field numbers took a hit from rape allegations last spring and is still deemed untouchable by most sports marketers — likely, even if he wins Sunday’s championship game.

Undoubtedly, the most entertaining Super Bowl endorsement duel this year is the battle of the tresses between Polamalu and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. Polamalu has had a high-profile deal with Head & Shoulders all season; just last week, the equally well-coiffed Matthews signed a one-year deal with Unilever’s Suave that was reported by his agent to include "media appearances pre- and post-Super Bowl."

The commercials

More than football, for some viewers, Sunday’s the Super Bowl of Advertising! With the guaranteed audience of more than 100 million viewers, the game represents prime advertising real estate for marketers. And since half of Super Bowl viewers will re-watch ads online after the game — and comment on them in chat spaces and social networking sites — marketers had better make those spots memorable.

A study by Ad Age found that commercial time during the Super Bowl has been steadily increasing over the last decade, with nearly 48 minutes' worth of ads and network promotions during last year’s game, compared with 40 minutes and 15 seconds during the game in 2001. What’s more, as Ad Age noted, marketers who secure time during Super Bowl broadcasts are also "taking part in a multi-week buzz contest rather than a one-time showing of their ad during a football game.”

And it’s estimated that more than half of Super Bowl advertisers are pairing their on-air campaigns with online social media tie-ins.

At least seven advertisers from last year’s Super Bowl, including Papa John’s, Monster, Dr. Pepper, and Denny’s, aren’t buying commercial time during this year’s broadcast, either because of the $3 million price tag or because they’ve decided to allocate their advertising resources elsewhere — like online.

On Sunday, the two industries you can expect to see most during the game are movies and automotive brands, with at least 15 and nine spots, respectively. And no Super Bowl would be complete without Anheuser-Busch. The brewer has spent $235 million on Super Bowl advertising over the past decade, more than any other company.

Here are some highlights of what to expect from Sunday’s ads:

• Car talk: General Motors’ eight 30-second spots will focus on its line of cars under the Chevy banner, from the Camaro to the Cruze. GM also plans a tie-in with the postgame episode of “Glee” on FOX. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Mercedes-Benz has "enlisted tennis star Serena Williams and a tweeting mom from suburban Chicago to add online buzz to its first appearance at the Super Bowl.” Audi and BMW are also on board, marking the first time that all three German luxury brands are advertising during the game. (Audi’s ad apparently involves an updated version of the book “Goodnight Moon” starring a snooty poodle.)

• Sexy Go Daddy spokeswoman Danica Patrick is back, with a new sidekick — TV fitness trainer Jillian Michaels. Noting that she is wearing more clothing “in the Go Daddy spot than I do in my own exercise DVDs,” Michaels has four words for people decrying the racy nature of the ads” “Honestly, get a life.”

• Somethingenerians Betty White and Abe Vigoda found a sweet spot during last year’s game with Snickers. This year, the Mars Chocolate stalwart is calling on comedians Richard Lewis and Roseanne Barr in a commercial called “Logging” that will air during the third quarter.

• Twentieth Century FOX’s last-minute ad buy for a fourth quarter 30-second spot to promote the upcoming release of “Rio” includes a tie-in to the hit cellphone game “Angry Birds.” In all, Hollywood studios are promoting at least 13 movies during the telecast.

• Rapper Eminem goes Claymation in a Lipton Brisk iced tea ad that will give viewers a glimpse into a day in his life (the flesh-and-blood rapper, not the Play-Doh one).

• Best Buy also ventures into music in its first Super Bowl ad, featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber – Ozzy for the edge and Bieber to “skew young.”

• While it waited too long and got shut out of the Super Bowl telecast ad inventory, Chicago-based coupon sensation Groupon will air its first-ever ads during pregame coverage on FOX. Groupon will no doubt also work with its retail partners to offer coupons Super Bowl viewers can use at home.

• Finally, those pesky Careerbuilder monkeys are back, appearing during the third quarter at their fictional company “Yeknom.” That’s not only “monkey” spelled backward, it’s the perfect Sunday antidote to Monday morning.

Enjoy the ads ... and the game!

Tagged: Packers, Steelers, Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews

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