How Super Bowl Sunday Became an Unofficial Holiday
Every February, the Super Bowl inspires millions of people to gather around their TVs, put out some snacks, fill their coolers and turn on the big game. It has become an unofficial national holiday in the United States, arguably more celebrated than days like Labor Day and President's Day.
So, how did a sporting event become such a beloved — and lucrative — occasion? The story of this football phenomenon is an impressive one and might change how you view this momentous Sunday in the years to come. Let’s tune in!
An Entertainment Event Like No Other
Over the decades, the Super Bowl has become a mega-entertainment event, with more than half of all Americans tuning in each year. Some years, more than 75% of Americans watch the show. It’s hands down the most-watched TV special in the country (with few exceptions).
Only the Most Famous Faces
Given its importance as an unofficial national holiday, only the best of the best are called to perform in the highly anticipated halftime show. A number of viewers tune in exclusively for the halftime show, merely tolerating the football game leading up to it.
The First Super Bowl
We know that the Super Bowl is a major event these days, but how did it come to be? What were the Super Bowls like in the beginning? The very first Super Bowl took place in the year 1967. This was a time when televisions were new commodities in the home, and families were eager for new entertainment.
The Founding Rivalry
The first Super Bowl was actually called the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game" before they switched the name. That's because it was based around a tense rivalry between the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL). After years of competing against each other for fans and funding, they decided to join together.
Parallels with War
When the Super Bowl came about, organizers quickly realized they should publicly make friends with the U.S. military. As a result, military planes started doing flyovers for the game, giving it an air of patriotism that viewers in the 1960s found very compelling.
Aligning themselves with the military was only the beginning of the patriotization of the Super Bowl. The 1970 Super Bowl included a halftime show with an 1815 battle reenactment. The NFL looked for any way to paint the Super Bowl as representing American pride.
As the Super Bowl solidified itself as a country-wide holiday, the teams that participated became even more famous. The Dallas Cowboys, for example, enjoyed a long winning streak in the 1970s and were nicknamed America's Team. The most successful teams won the biggest endorsements and made the most money.
The Birth of the Commercial Craze
Commercials during the Super Bowl were always a hot spot for companies, but there wasn't always such a culture-craze surrounding them. In the beginning, people watched for the game, and the commercials were like any other ad. Things took a turn in 1973, however, with one commercial starring Farrah Fawcett and football player Joe Namath.
Apple Makes History
In 1984, Apple made history with its Super Bowl commercial promoting Macintosh computers. The clip was a profound one, building off George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, and it left many viewers intensely curious about the new product. In it, a woman with a sledgehammer runs from authorities, seeking to destroy a 1984-like broadcast.
The Legacy Continues
The standards for Super Bowl commercials have only continued to rise. Super Bowl 2020 ads included A-list celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Bryan Cranston, Post Malone and Rainn Wilson. They had incredibly developed plot lines, extensive costumes and even a CGI dragon.
Just How Much Does a Commercial Cost?
It's only natural to assume that as the Super Bowl has risen in popularity so have the prices for commercials. After all, the bigger the audience gets, the more companies will want airtime. But just how much do these big-name companies pay to reserve a commercial during the game?
A Turning Point
The first decade of the Super Bowl was without a doubt a successful one. The game was consistently sold out, ad-space was highly coveted and viewers were coming back for more year after year. One decision, however, upgraded the Super Bowl from a popular game to a national treasure.
Excitement = Views
When taking a broad look at Super Bowl games since the 1960s, there is one trend that jumps out. Other than a few dips here and there, the number of points teams score at the Super Bowl has been rising.
Exploding Ticket Costs
If you went to the very first Super Bowl game, you paid just $10 for a seat. According to GoBankingRates.com, those $10 are technically equivalent to $78 in today's money. Even so, those tickets were dirt cheap by today's standards.
Humble Halftime Shows
When you think of the Super Bowl today, you obviously think of the glitzy halftime shows filled with hundreds of dancers, numerous costume changes and maybe even fireworks. Back in the day, however, the halftime show was a much more humble affair.
Big Shows Lead to Big Mistakes
The bigger the halftime shows get, the more opportunities there are for something to go wrong — and things have certainly gone wrong in the past. At the 2013 halftime show, for example, the power went out on Beyonce Knowles' performance.
Costs to the Host
Thousands of people head to the Super Bowl stadium each year — those who can afford the tickets, anyway. Factoring in performance logistics at halftime, food, cameras and the countless other expenses that go into the night, it begs the question: Just how much does it cost to host the Super Bowl?
Benefits to the Area
Several stadiums have hosted the Super Bowl. No matter where it ends up taking place, however, the surrounding area is always certain to get a bump in their economy. That's because thousands of people flock to the city and pay for hotels, food, etc. while they’re there.
Food Sales Soar
Sales don't just increase for the city where the Super Bowl takes place. This weekend is celebrated all across the country, and people purchase plenty of food and snacks for their Super Bowl parties. People consume an estimated 1.4 billion chicken wings and 10 million ribs.
The Evolution of the Coin Toss
The beginning of the NFL Super Bowl has always been marked by a coin toss. This moment decides who will have possession of the ball first, and until 1977, it was executed by game officials. They decided to change the rules in the years that followed.
An Opportunity for High Bets
Wherever there's a competition, betting is sure to follow close behind. People have loved to bet for ages — we bet on horse races, presidential elections and casino games. Why would a massive football game be any different? Well, it's not.
The Necessary Manpower
The impressiveness of Super Bowl Sunday doesn't just happen on its own. It's an immense production that requires months of preparation, hours of assembly and lots of manpower. Surprisingly, many of the people working for the Super Bowl do it for free.
The Real Paycheck to Play at Halftime
You may have wondered how much halftime performers make for their appearances. After all, such a large event should pay their singers handsomely, right? Not necessarily. The NFL covers all production costs of the halftime show, but the actual performers don't see a single penny. Shocking, right?
Changing American Habits
All those increased Super Bowl Sunday sales for meat and snacks aren't for nothing — people are planning their viewing experience. According to WalletHub statistics, 27% of people in 2020 went to a Super Bowl viewing party. That's a good chunk of people planning to go to a social event for the day.
The Beer Companies Love It
It's not just food sales that increase for Super Bowl Sunday, it's beer sales. In fact, beer has become a quintessential staple of the holiday. The image of a beer and meat-filled Super Bowl has been so successfully integrated into American culture that approximately 50 million cases of beer are sold for this day alone.
The Super Bowl is consistently one of the most-watched television specials in the history of the United States. There have been a few challengers throughout the years, however. The finale episode of M*A*S*H saw almost 106 million viewers, which is more than many Super Bowls.
Football or Ads?
In its early days, the Super Bowl was all about football. It was the game that people wanted to see and the game that people talked about in the following days. But here’s the thing: Only so many people are actually interested in football.
Payday for the Players
Salaries for football players have increased dramatically since the 1970s. Back then, some players had to work a second job just to make ends meet. Players nowadays don't want for much, and the Super Bowl is like a giant cherry on top.
Mixing with Politics?
For years, the Super Bowl was largely separate from the world of politics. Certain prominent figures might have shown up to watch, but that was about it. Starting in 1980, however, teams started to get invitations to the White House.
A Celebration for Corporate America
At the end of the day, the Super Bowl is the ultimate holiday for corporate America. It makes lots of companies a lot of money, and this is part of why it's so heavily marketed. On the other hand, it's also a time that family and friends get together to have a good time.