Paul Catmur: Valentines Day vs The Super Bowl – a consumerist orgy

OPINION:

Tomorrow, Monday, February 14, is a momentous occasion not just for lovers of love, but also lovers of sport. For the first time in recorded history, the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day will take place on the same day (well, at least in New Zealand).

While you might initially think that there’s little in common between a centuries-old celebration of love and a bunch of athletic freaks trying to beat the bejesus out of each other, you may be surprised. Both occasions have been overrun by commercial interests; they both involve copious consumer consumption; and they both, ultimately, lead either to heartbreak, or possibly a ring. (All Super Bowl-winning players and coaches get a garish ring costing around US$30k each.)

Hopefully, by now, all your Valentine’s Day obligations will have been organised, because if not, you’re too late and headed for the doghouse. So let’s concentrate on some of the commercial implications of the greatest day in American sport.

More than a game

Whether or not you like American football (spoiler alert: I do, deal with it) the Super Bowl is way more than just a sporting event, it’s a national orgy of consumption and togetherness. The experience goes on for hours and is watched by 70 per cent of Americans, generally in a large group surrounded by mountains of food and a fridge full of beer in what’s referred to as a Super Bowl Party. That’s right, in the US, friends and family, men and women, hang out and watch the game together for reasons of social interaction rather than just because Bruce down the road is the only one with Sky TV.

Super Bowl ads

Curiously, the ads which punctuate the stop-start nature of American Football have over the years become nearly as popular as the Super Bowl itself.

The ads are generally so good (or the football so bad) that 21 per cent of viewers think they are the most enjoyable part of the day. The ads are dissected, discussed, and shared online, with the most popular being celebrated almost as much as the winner of the actual game.

An engaged, captive audience means that advertisers fall over themselves to pay up to US$7 million for a 30-second slot. They reckon that if they’re going to spend that much they might as well have a decent ad to show. Consequently, the advertisers spend a lot of time and money competing with each other to produce the most entertaining and watchable commercial that they can. The big question, of course, is why the hell don’t they bother for the rest of the year? I anticipate a very similar question will be asked of many men about their Valentine’s Day efforts.

Food consumption

I don’t think I’m letting out a big secret by mentioning that if there was a Super Bowl for eating, Americans would cream it every year. More than a third of Americans are classified as obese, and as the Super Bowl is the second-largest day of food consumption in America after Thanksgiving the supermarkets are among the big winners. Total extra spending for the day is expected to reach US$14 billion.

Sadly, if you’re yet to book a table for Valentine’s Day you will probably be left with sub-optimal venues by now. Still, it’s about the sentiment, not the meal, right? At least that’s what you’ll say as you share a Big Mac and fries.

The 'Pepsi' halftime show

The Super Bowl halftime show is an extravaganza which is seen as an important part of the day’s entertainment (remember Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction”?). This year features an “Old Skool” rap special with Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar. The show is always spectacular and 18 per cent of people think it’s the best part of the day. Interestingly, the performers are happy not to be paid anything other than expenses mainly because, like Queen at
Live Aid in 1985, their careers get a massive boost from the exposure.

The game

Oh, that’s right, in between the music, the food, the gambling and the ads, there’s a game going on. This one is between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams. It’s always a great spectacle, but even so I would check very carefully with your Valentine before signing up the pair of you up to watch the game. The wrong decision could be very costly.

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