The Super Bowl is an annual event where the two top teams in the National Football League compete in a sporting event that decides who will be the League champions. According to audience size, the Super Bowl is the most important public event in American culture. For comparison, the 2008 presidential debates received an audience of approximately 63 million viewers and the first round of the 2012 presidential debates received an audience of approximately 46 million viewers (Nielson Media and Entertainment). However, the 2012 Super Bowl made history as one of the most-watched events of all time with an audience of 111.3 million viewers (Super Sunday). Signifying its growing importance to the American people, this figure increased from the record-breaking 94.1 million viewers during the 1996 Super Bowl (Nielson Company’s Guide). Further, the Super Bowl appeals to Americans across demographic categories, 31 percent of women, 27.2 percent of African Americans, and 15.7 percent of Hispanics tuning in to watch the program (Nielson Company’s Guide). The importance of the Super Bowl is ubiquitous among Americans.
Though Super Bowl viewers watch athletes in top physical shape exercise great feats of athleticism, it appears that the Super Bowl is far from a celebration of fitness. To appropriately celebrate the Super Bowl, it is customary to have a party with non-nutritious food and to relax in a sedentary position while viewing the event. Leading up to the 2012 Super Bowl, 2.5 million Americans expressed that they planned to purchase furniture and an entertainment center to view the game, and 5.2 expressed that the would purchase a big-screen television (Milbourn). Further, 71.2 percent of Americans intended to purchase food or beverages to enjoy the game (Milbourn). Sales of soft drinks, beers, and chips increase significantly before the Super Bowl (Nielson Company’s Guide). Facilitating unhealthy eating trends and lethargy, the top four categories of commercials displayed during the Super Bowl include beer commercials, soft drink commercials, and motion picture commercials (Pearson-McNeil). Thus, while fans celebrate the athleticism of the American football players in the game, they consume fattening foods and watch advertisements for unhealthy snack products and alcohol.
Corporate spending during the Super Bowl reveals the commercial nature of this celebrated event. The advertisements appear to be a significant component of the Super Bowl ritual, with the amount of money spent on Super Bowl ads increasing yearly. In 2006, a 30-second advertisement cost approximately $2.5 million, but by 2012, this figure increased to $3.5 million (Nielson Company’s Guide; Pearson-McNeil). According to research, Super Bowl viewers respond well to ads that have humor, animals and children while telling them little about the actual products (No Boring Ads Please). Thus, it is taboo for companies to actually advertise their products during the Super Bowl. However, the practice of advertisers demonstrates the significance of commercialism during the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl is a bit of a paradox as a cultural activity. While it appears to celebrate athleticism, it is marked by the consumption of beer and junk food while reclining on comfortable furniture at Super Bowl parties. Further, while advertisers spend millions to display their products, viewers demand their advertisements to be as uninformative as possible. Yet, as the most-watched event in America, the Super Bowl demonstrates the priority that American culture places upon entertaining events that enable them to enjoy raw athleticism that they as viewers might lack in their personal lives.
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