Super Bowl Sunday: Bigger than Jesus

The biggest spiritual holiday in America sees the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks battle it out for the title. Who's your money on?

Forget the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day; Super Bowl Sunday has replaced them all as America’s biggest holiday.

And this Sunday, Super Bowl XLVIII takes place between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with 150,000 people predicted to be descending on the Meadowlands to be involved in the weekend.

For only the second time in the past twenty years, the Super Bowl will be contested between the number one seeded teams from each conference.  In addition to that, it is also a match between the best offensive team in the NFL (Denver Broncos) against the best defensive team in the NFL (Seattle Seahawks), an occurrence has happened only twice in 48 Super Bowls.

The Broncos have previously won two Super Bowls, with quarterback Peyton Manning looking for his second Super Bowl win.  Former legend John Elway, a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, is also part of the coaching team.

The Seahawks on the other hand have never won the Super Bowl and will be looking for glory at this, only their second appearance in the game.  They are one of the lower profile squads of the 32 NFL teams and have built their success on a strong home-game record.

But the Super Bowl has never been totally about winning the game, unless of course you are part of one of the two fanbases that have made their way to the final.  It is much more about the community and family feel of the day that has turned into a holiday and a national pastime, with viewing parties springing up all over the country.

This is something that has historically been taken advantage of on TV.  The television network devotes their entire programming schedule to Super Bowl related shows, while rival networks have given up trying to counter-programme and so will run low-cost and low interest programmes.

The 2011 Super Bowl is still the most watched TV broadcast in American TV history, with 111 million people watching the match, and 100 million people or more having watched all of the last five Super Bowls.  This has led to companies specifically creating adverts to premiere during the show, which this year has Fox selling advertising space at $4million per 30 second advertising spot.

Which brings us to the traditional half-time show… Introduced solely to ensure that television viewing eyes remain on the screen even when the action on the field is not taking place, this year will feature Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, continuing the one-way trend of superstar performers that get big ratings, with Madonna’s 2012 show rating even higher than the Super Bowl itself as 112.5 million viewers watched the show.  While Beyonce’s half-time show last year managed to become the most tweeted about moment in Twitter history, with 268,000 tweets a minute being published.  This meta-performance within the sporting performance has become one of the most high-profile performances that a musician can make.

“It has been one of the most profoundly effective media and public relations events that has ever been built in the United States,” said Daniel T. Durbin, an associate professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, of the NFL’s marketing prowess.

Mark Waller joined the NFL in 2006 originally to promote the game abroad and is now the league’s first chief marketing officer.  He sees football as “America’s last great campfire… We tap into that community feel that quite honestly has been lost in many respects.”  He went on to add, “I do think we are meaningful and unifying…. Nothing unites the country like Super Bowl day.”  This is especially true in terms of food, as Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest day after Thanksgiving for food consumption by Americans, with takeaway orders doubling compared to usual.

It is often referred to as a public holiday for its ability to unite friends and families to come together to watch the game, and the majority of Americans still follow the same routine throughout the day.  In addition to this, with stores closing due to the lack of people out in the streets and some churches even cancelling their services so that their congregation can watch the game, it certainly has the feel of a holiday, even if it not an official one.

It is also one the few sporting events that resonates around the world.  Despite all 32 NFL teams being based in the USA, the Super Bowl is one of (if not the biggest) single TV events of the year globally, and many people will watch the Super Bowl even if their knowledge of American Football is next to none just because of the status and hype that the game gets.  Especially due to the half-time shows…

The fact that the day is barely about the sport itself was beautifully spoofed in the Simpsons episode “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday”, which was a lead out programme for the Super Bowl yet despite being an episode based around the Simpsons going to the Super Bowl, features no American Football at all.

As for who actually wins the match (other than the sponsors) it is a secondary concern. The bookies have the Denver Broncos as slight favourites, with a two point winning margin being the spread that they are predicting. I would slightly favour the Seattle Seahawks to win myself with their defence being able to cancel out the Broncos offence.

But unless you are a fan of either team, the best thing to do is just enjoy the spectacle and the show. Because when it boils down it, it the show, rather than the football, that keeps a global audience watching.

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