Last year’s Super Bowl contest will be difficult to equal this time round. The 2014 match-up between the Seahawks and the Broncos established itself in the record books, becoming the most watched television programme in American history, with 112.2 million viewers. The demand for a similar spectacle is intense, and the bar has most certainly been set. All eyes will be drawn to Arizona on Sunday, for the most eagerly anticipated sporting event of the year. But is passion for the game being diluted by the allure of the showbiz and money; the razzmatazz; the glitz and the glamour?
According to NFL.com, the 2014 Super Bowl set social media alight, with tweets totalling 25.3 million ensuring its domination of the internet. The Bruno Mars/Red Hot Chilli Peppers half-time performance captured the public’s attention, with tweets and hashtags relating to this eclipsing 424,000. This raises the question, though, of what we’re truly – primarily – cheering for. The endeavour and skill of world-class athletes, or seeing our favourite popstars deliver a knock-out performance on the field?
This year’s match will unfold at the University of Phoenix’s stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Frank Supovitz, former NFL Senior Vice President of Events, talks of the great advantages for host cities of the Super bowl, advantages which extend beyond “just bragging rights”. It is obvious that there is a huge revenue opportunity, with various cost-benefit analyses estimating the impact of this single game to be between $200 million to $500 million on the local, regional and state economies. The most avid fans excitedly splash their cash on $3,000 travel packages, and seats in the highest tiers are being sold for an excessive $800 per person. Evidently, though, economic control over the sporting world is such that there are increasing numbers of obstacles standing in the way between many fans and their favourite teams, regardless of any wider economic benefit.
Further, this monetary influence pervades every aspect of the event, as one might expect. The 2014 salary of Marshawn Lynch, (Seahawks star RB) hit $6 million; and, in 2013, Tom Brady (Patriots QB) signed a $57 million contract with a total signing bonus amounting to $30 million. Somewhat sickeningly, a 30-second Super Bowl advert costs an interested party $4 million, and so for an extra 30 seconds, the price increases to $8 million. Further controversy emerged, meanwhile, when it was reported that the NFL had asked this year’s half-time performer, Katy Perry, for a financial contribution in light of the exposure she would receive. The question we really have to ask, therefore, is the extent to which the Superbowl is truly about sport, given the greed and economic expansionism that underpins it. Entertainment, undeniably, but at what price to most sports fans?