Another year, another Super Bowl, another largest national sporting event of the year and also another opportunity for big corporations to spend exorbitant sums of money on extensive commercials.
According to a Sports Illustrated report, this time around, that’s roughly $5 million for 30 seconds. Now, it’s easy to pass off these commercials as the top 0.1 percent fulfilling their capitalistic agenda. However, with a viewership between 103.4 million and 112.3 million peaking from 10 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. EST, it’s easy to say a lot of people watch the Super Bowl. After all the numbers are laid out, the one thing that’s impossible to ignore is the cultural impact of these Super Bowl commercials.
Apart from the usual attempts at propaganda, the Super Bowl commercials have long-lasting cultural impact. From 1992, do people remember the Redskins beating the Bills 37-24 or do they remember Cindy Crawford drinking that can of Pepsi when the game cut to commercials? In fact, Crawford’s Pepsi commercial was so popular that she was a part of this year’s Pepsi commercial recreating the scene from 1992 but this time with her son. If one were to look even further back to 1984, what is evidently more memorable to this date: the Los Angeles Raiders’ win or Apple introducing the world to the Macintosh computer? Bloomberg even went on to say that “the spot helped define Apple as a brand and changed the Super Bowl into a must-see media event.” This comment suggests that these commercials are just as significant (if not more so) as the actual sporting event in itself.
This dichotomous yet codependent relationship between the Super Bowl and its commercials has developed over the ages. However, the cultural emphasis and lasting impression of the commercials have notably shifted the power dynamic towards the commercials. There has always been an emphatic drive towards the Super Bowl advertisements, although the emergence of the Internet has changed the way people interact with media. A majority of the population’s content consumption has shifted towards streaming on YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and others. Additionally, the internet also develops a culture of a quicker, instantaneous and portable form of consumption. The viewership numbers dropping seven percent from last year’s game clearly suggests that an increasing percentage of the population would rather just see the highlights on YouTube the next day as compared to sitting through the live game and, what’s also available on YouTube? More of the Super Bowl commercials.
The Super Bowl performances, also in their own complex, interesting way, are essentially commercials starring the artists. There is a reason the performer doesn’t get paid. NFL spokesperson Joanna Hunter mentioned to Forbes, “We do not pay the artists. We cover expenses and production costs.” Moreover, Justin Timberlake’s performance having twice as many views as compared to the Game Highlight on YouTube (roughly 12 million versus roughly six million) says a lot about the technologically saturated capitalism-centric profit and publicity oriented directions things seem to be moving towards.
With the rapid development of tech and the changing landscape of broadcasting, it is uncertain what watching the Super Bowl will look like in 10 years, be it in the form of a hologram, virtual reality or possibly over radio due to nuclear fallout, but any direction it’ll take it seems that the ads will continue to endlessly garner investment and attention from audiences all across the nation and maybe even the world.