The Super Bowl is an exciting game that answers the question, “Who was the best football team this year?” Giant men go head to head and spend four quarters knocking each other down, over a small inflated pig skin ball. Most people would say that there is more to it than that, that the game of football itself is exciting and that the structure, the history, the idea of football is universally appealing. They would be wrong. The NFL Super Bowl is fascinating, but what is it to those that don’t follow football? They exist, these people that have no interest in the game, and they still watch it. Why? What do they take away from it?
Sports websites show that the largest group watching the Super Bowl every year consists of Caucasian males ages 35 to 49. What they don’t show is that these guys are only the largest group by a few percentage points. Almost just as numerous are the ladies watching the game. They make up half of the fans in front of the tube, give or take a few percent. In fact, watching and following football has become a common habit for the girls over the last several decades. Women are not only watching but keeping track of their favorite players and their statistics more than ever. Advertisers and manufacturers have taking notice. New lines of team specific sporting apparel are being marketed to women all over the country.
Who else is watching? That is what makes the game so interesting. Ask someone if they like football. If their answer is “no,” ask them if they are watching the Super Bowl. The majority of them will answer, “yes.” So, if they don’t like the game why watch the show? Some do it for the love. Many times a person that doesn’t follow sports will attend just because their spouse does. On occasion, the response to the question why is simple. They have a day off and wherever they go the game is on, so the question becomes, why not? Putting aside the passive aggressive reasons for watching leaves even more questions.
How can advertisers prepare for the guy or girl that only watches because their significant other does? Do these non-fans make tracking Super Bowl watchers a pointless exercise? Honestly, how can an advertiser rely on data that shows someone is watching when they don’t know their motivation for doing so? The fact is, they don’t.
Advertisers have been aware of the Super “fan” and their presence since the inception of the Super Bowl. It began with the little lady in the kitchen preparing a sideboard of snacks for the men watching the game. After the snacks were distributed and the frosty mugs filled, she became the woman that joined the group and asked questions about the game. The clever salesman wove ads for that woman in to the content intended for her husband, right?
Eventually, ads targeting other races and age groups were filtered in. However, ads alone cannot hold ones attention on that which they just aren’t interested in. Don’t you get it yet? Most people don’t realize, television ads aired during the breaks in the game were never for Johnny Paycheck. They were actually for Jane Checkbook. Think about watching the game with family. The play ends and the commercial begins. The fans don’t pay attention to the commercials. They discuss the last play, the referee and whatever boneheaded call he should be publicly flogged for. Who watches the commercial? The “fan.” The person, male or female, that is just there for the dip or the companionship is soaking up the subliminal marketing messages like a good little consumer. Still, advertisement enough is not sufficient motivation to keep the reluctant game watchers interested.
The Super Bowl has gone from just another Sunday game to the highlight of the season based, not just on advertising, but the spectacle, the halftime show. Football fans line up to enjoy the entertainment that has been lined up for them. Silly football fans. The entertainment you seek is actually earmarked for your friends. It keeps them watching, is actually intended to make them look forward to doing so. It brings them into the process and cements their participation so they keep coming back every year. They don’t have to watch, but they must see the halftime show, so they pull up a chair and count down the seconds until the real spectacular. They sit doing something that few can accomplish, being both literally, and figuratively on the sidelines until the break between halves of the biggest game of the year.
Of course, times have changed. Now Johnny and Jane have the same surname, Paycheck-Checkbook, as they both have to work to support the modern family. Financial decisions are shared between both parties like never before. Both parties are likely to enjoy a lively discussion about which team is the best with a full understanding of all statistics involved. The gender gap in the world of fans has all but been eliminated. Advertisement reflects this, providing a wide range of Super expensive ads geared toward every facet of the population. Years later the Super Bowl has become a family event. It has evolved into a fandom, a national holiday no longer just for those that believe in the magic of the holiday or the Super Bowl Fairy. They are the Ebeneezer Boobtubers that don’t see the shiny allure of this particular holiday but show up for the food. They keep coming back every year, and are welcomed to do so by the teams and advertisers hoping to convert them into true fans of the game.