18. Advertising costs for the Super Bowl have increased every year
For the first Super Bowl, the cost of a thirty-second television advertising spot averaged $37,500 (about $292,000 today). By the first decade of the 21st century, the cost for a 30-second spot broadcast during the game exceeded $5 million. Those costs don’t include those for the production of the spots to be broadcast. At the same time, advertising costs for spots during regular season featured games, such as Sunday Night Football, were well below $1 million for a thirty-second spot. Clearly, the Super Bowl’s consistently high ratings, as well as the relatively newly developed habit of remaining in one’s seat in anticipation of a commercial’s entertainment value, allow for the high advertising rates.
There has been a pushback in more recent years, with several formerly highly visible advertisers abandoning the Super Bowl broadcast entirely. Among them were Pepsi (which later returned), General Motors, Dr. Pepper, and Apple Computer. Some advertisers shifted their focus to the extensive (some would say exhaustive) pregame coverage, which has driven up rates for those spots in recent years. Several companies which once advertised during the Super Bowl no longer exist, such as Plymouth and Pontiac, or barely exist, such as Radio Shack. RJ Reynolds advertised cigarettes during Super Bowls I and II, before cigarette advertising became banned from television.
19. The Vince Lombardi Trophy was designed on a cocktail napkin
In 1966, Oscar Riedner, the president of Tiffany and Company, had a lunch meeting with Pete Rozelle. During the meeting, Riedner sketched a trophy on a cocktail napkin, the design of which Rozelle instantly approved. The original trophy, awarded to Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi after his team won the first Super Bowl, was manufactured by Tiffany’s in Newark. The trophy has been manufactured by Tiffany and Company ever since, though at different facilities over the years. The early trophies included the words “World Professional Football Championship”. Lombardi won the first two. After his death in 1970, the NFL named the trophy in his honor. The first team to receive the newly named Lombardi Trophy was the Baltimore Colts, on January 17, 1971.
Since the late 1990s, the trophy has been awarded in a presentation following the game, with it being delivered to the owner of the winning team, usually accompanied by the head coach, the game’s Most Valuable Player, and other luminaries. That didn’t happen in 1971. The MVP for the game, in which the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys, was Chuck Howley. Howley represents the only time a member of the losing team won the MVP award in Super Bowl history. Howley refused to accept the award, though it was not redesignated for another player. It was the first time the Super Bowl MVP went to a defensive player as well.
20. Another network didn’t broadcast the Super Bowl until 1985
On January 20, 1985, ABC broke the long-standing grip of NBC and CBS on Super Bowl television broadcasts. The network had been airing professional football on its Monday Night Football broadcasts for fifteen years before it had the opportunity to do the Super Bowl. Frank Gifford did the play-by-play, supported by Don Meredith and Joe Theismann. During the pregame coverage, hosted by Al Michaels and Jim Lampley, O. J. Simpson provided analysis. Howard Cosell did not take part in the broadcasts, having largely retired. ABC provided closed captioning during the game, its first appearance in the annual event. The game took place in Stanford Stadium, giving a real home team advantage to the San Francisco 49ers.
Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for his second term in office the same day. Reagan took the oath in a private ceremony in the White House, since January 20th occurred on a Sunday. The following day, the traditional ceremonies and celebrations took place. After being inaugurated, Reagan appeared in a telecast from the White House and tossed the coin at the outset of the game. Presidential appearances at the Super Bowl have been a feature of the broadcast ever since, though in varying degrees. A television audience of such size is irresistible to politicians.
21. The same network broadcast the Super Bowl two years in a row twice
CBS broadcast Super Bowl I and II in 1967 and 1968. In 1993 and 1994 NBC broadcast back-to-back games, as part of a resolution of a contract dispute. It was, to date, the only time the game has been broadcast by a single network for two consecutive years. It also marked the last appearance during a professional football game by O. J. Simpson, who worked it as a sideline reporter. Within months, Simpson faced charges of murdering his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. The game itself, between the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys, proved competitive during the first half. Buffalo led at halftime, but failed to score in the second half and lost 30-13.
Fox Sports displaced CBS in the rotation following the 1996 season. NBC lost broadcasting rights for a time, before reclaiming them, displacing ABC from the rotation. Since 2007, the game has alternated between CBS, NBC, and Fox. Regardless of which network the game is scheduled for in any given year, the upcoming Super Bowl is hyped during entertainment broadcasting, sports broadcasting, and by the local affiliates associated with each network. The Super Bowl is a cash cow for the broadcasters, and it is exploited to the maximum possible effect.
For each team playing in the Super Bowl, 108 footballs are provided. Half of the footballs are intended for practice sessions, the other 54 for the game. Each are hand-crafted and stitched by workers at Wilson’s factory in Ada, Ohio, though some stitches are assisted by sewing machines. Laces are tied by hand. The attention to detail surrounding the Super Bowl is by no means limited to the balls used. Players are given perks throughout the week leading up to the game, including loaner cars (usually from local car dealers). Fans aren’t so lucky. The average ticket price for the Super Bowl has reached well over $4,000, and they continue to go up.
Family and friends of the players also receive numerous perks, including comped meals and hotel rooms, and access to exclusive events, away from the public. Corporate-sponsored parties allow some access to fans but at a cost of hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Even the coin used for the ceremonial pregame coin toss is specially minted, different for each game, by the Highland Mint. Replicas of the coin can be purchased online. Besides becoming a de facto part of the American holiday season, the Super Bowl over the years has become a clear representation of conspicuous consumption, whether of the bowl of guacamole or expensive champagne in a luxury suite at the stadium. All indications are the game’s popularity will continue to grow, with some speculation of it one day being played in London’s Wembley Stadium.
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