Gone Too Far

There are a lot of good reasons not to watch the Super Bowl–Jackie has fifty of ’em. The problem is that I’m not sure that would accomplish anything.

Wait, let me amend that. You’ll feel better. It’s worth doing on that basis alone.

But, let’s face it, the game will go on. I’m convinced that even if everybody in the world boycotted the game this year, it would still be played next year. The phrase “too big to fail” gets thrown around far too often, but this does seem to be a legitimate usage. Blame the commercials and the halftime show.

The halftime show has taken on a life of its own. I know–and you probably do too–people who tune in just for the halftime show. Blame Janet Jackson for making it “must see TV”–and M.I.A. and Katy Perry’s Left Shark for keeping interest up. Even people who don’t turn on the TV on Super Bowl Sunday hit the Internet to find out what new controversy each new show produces.

And the commercials. Talk about the tail wagging the dog! Jackie points to a 2014 survey that found “78 percent of Americans look forward to the commercials more than the game“. Seventy-eight percent. Let that sink in. If the survey bears anything like a correspondence to reality, it means 87 million people watched the 2014 Super Bowl for the ads, compared to only 24 million who tuned in for the game.

That’s great news for the advertisers, of course, and as long as people hit the Internet to check out the commercials, the advertisers really don’t care if they boycott the game itself. And people do. The tag “Super Bowl commercial” has acquired a cachet all out of proportion to any actual value the ads have.

I’m being serious here. According to USA Today, last year’s top advertisement was Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” spot. Ask yourself two questions: “Do you remember that ad, and, if so, did you remember it before you clicked the link?” and “Did the ad make you want to buy Budweiser beer, or even think about buying it at any point in the past year?”

Unless you and all of the other 114,399,999 Americans who watched the Super Bowl last year can answer yes to both of those questions, Budweiser wasted their advertising money. Even leaving aside the cost to make the ad (because I can’t find any numbers on that), the Super Bowl placement cost $9 million, or a bit under eight cents per US viewer. Did the ad make you buy enough Bud for Anheuser-Busch to make eight cents profit?

Decline of civilization, anyone?

7 thoughts on “Gone Too Far

  1. Just about my favorite short video of all time was a Superbowl ad called “Cat Herding,” which promoted a Beltway Bandit contractor. SAIC, I think. I am in no position to buy their product of course, but I’ve watched the video many times. I thank football and advertising for bringing me the computer enhanced spectacle of herds of cats and rugged men handling them gently. I don’t know what they really got for their money. I hope they donated some to shelters.


    • EDS, not SAIC, but since I’m not likely to hire either one, I suppose that doesn’t matter a whole lot.

      A much more memorable one than Bud’s puppy, but I think you just proved my point about how little value the companies who advertise get for their dollars.


  2. Casey, I have no idea whether boycotts and protests will make any difference to the NFL. A lot would depend on the size and amount of noise, I suppose. I agree, too, that we all have the right to do what we wish with out own bodies, and that, to someone with few options, an NFL salary has got to look pretty good, whatever the consequences. All that is true, and I don’t expect my decision to stop watching football to affect any of it. That’s not why I’m doing it.
    I’m not going to watch football, at any level, because I don’t want to be the kind of person who gets enjoyment from watching people get hurt. In the past, I’ve laughed and whooped when someone put a “big hit” on an opposing player. Now, I know better, and, knowing, I’m not going to do that any more. Simple as that. I’ll feel better about myself if I don’t. Works for me.


    • Which is really what it should be all about. (We’re in agreement; as I said, not watching is worth doing, just because you’ll feel better.)

      In my more cynical moments, I suspect we’ve reached the point where boycotts and protests won’t make any difference to those in charge at any level (see, for instance, gun control). Then I see an example of protest working (removal of vaccination exemptions for California schoolkids, anyone?) and I feel better.


  3. Oh, I know I’m a boycott of one (or two … well, actually, maybe a half dozen or so) who have quit football. I worked for many years for the nation’s largest grassroots citizens’ lobby and we could collect one-million signatures calling for reforms and Members of Congress would smile politely, take the petitions, and then go back to ignoring the issue. My boycott won’t change things.

    But, I think football is a barbaric, violent, and dangerous sport. I think if any other employer in America provided an unsafe work environment, covered up the dangers to its employees, and then, when found out, refused to pay for medical care for permanently disabled employees, we would be outraged. But, people like football, so they give the NFL a pass.

    Nope, my boycott, sadly, won’t change things. But, I won’t give football a pass. At least I can say I’m not in cahoots with the greedy, negligent, and deceitful NFL.


    • What is it about sports (or “sports”) that brings out that willingness to forgive? Consider NASCAR, for another example.

      I think it’ll take a major misstep on the part of the NFL owners that has a direct impact on their fans before there’s enough of an uprising to get their attention. Right now, there are thoroughly pissed-off fans in St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland. I hear speculation about moving a team to Toronto or London–maybe if they pick the wrong team to move and piss off a few more million fans, the structure of the league will start showing cracks.


  4. Pingback: State of the Fourth Estate 04 | Koi Scribblings

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