Monday, January 30, 2012

Countdown to Super Bowl XLVI – a look back

The first Super Bowl held in January 1967 at the Los Angeles Coliseum didn’t sell out. Tickets for the game were priced at $5 and $10 each. Super Bowl XLVI is set for Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Field Sunday. The face value for tickets -- $1,000. Most of the 75,000 who will consider themselves blessed to be at the game will be paying more than $2,000 for the “privilege” of seeing the New England Patriots meet the New York Giants. More than 100 million people will watch the game on NBC, making it the most watched television program of the year. The evolution of the Super Bowl, like the NFL, what billion dollar dreams are made of.

Born in 1960 the American Football League proved to be much more of a competitive league than National Football League owners imagined forcing a merger, at the start of the 1970 season. The two leagues agreed to hold a championship game between the two leagues after the 1966, 1967 and 1968 seasons. The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I and II.

On his flight from Los Angeles to New York City the day after Super Bowl I, the late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle turned to his cohorts, suggested in no uncertain terms Super Bowl I would be the last Super Bowl that would not be sold out.

Super Bowl II and III were held at Miami’s Orange Bowl (which hosted five Super Bowl games). Working closely with the automotive industry the NFL created a series of sweepstakes opportunities. The sales driven incentives offered local dealerships a chance to “win a week in Miami”, get a little golfing in and see a football game. Those sweepstakes opportunities became the hallmark of the Super Bowl’s success. The NFL offered Super Bowl ticket packages to their sponsors, including those packages in the NFL advertising packages companies purchased from the NFL.

Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers dominated Super Bowl I and II. With the NFL, AFL merger still off in the distance the Baltimore Colts were a 21 point favorite over New York Jets at Super Bowl III. Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed the Jets would win the game, and backed up that guarantee leading the Jets to a stunning 16-7 win over the Colts. The first famous Super Bowl commercial was for Noxzema; Namath was a part of their 1973 Super Bowl commercial.

A year later in the final NFL-AFL Championship game the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs defeated the NFL's Minnesota Vikings 23–7 in Super Bowl IV in New Orleans.

The NFL realigned into two conferences after Super Bowl IV; the former AFL teams plus three NFL teams (the Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cleveland Browns) became the American Football Conference (AFC), while the remaining NFL clubs formed the National Football Conference (NFC). The champions of the two conferences would play each other in the Super Bowl.

Lamar Hunt, owner of the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, first used the term "Super Bowl" to refer to this game in the merger meetings. Hunt would later say the name was likely in his head because his children had been playing with a Super Ball toy (a vintage example of the ball is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio). In a July 25, 1966, letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt wrote, "I have kiddingly called it the 'Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon." Although the leagues' owners decided on the name "AFL-NFL Championship Game," the media immediately picked up on Hunt's "Super Bowl" name, which would become official beginning with the third annual game.

NBC has sold 58 30 second spots for Sunday’s game at a cost of $3.5 million per spot, $100,000 per second, or $203 million in advertising revenue from the game.

A 30 second spot at Super Bowl I cost $37,500. At Super Bowl X a 30 second spot cost $110,000. Super Bowl XX $525,000. Finally at Super Bowl XXX a 30 second spot surpassed $1 million, $1.15 million for a 30 second spot at the 1995 game. The 1999 Super Bowl saw 30 spots selling for $1.6 million. A year later at the 2000 game the average spot sold for $1.1 million. A year later the infamous .com Super Bowl saw the average 30 second spot sell for $2.1 million. 19 .com’s (most spending their entire advertising budgets on the Super Bowl) promoted their businesses on the Super Bowl broadcast, many going bankrupt as a result.

Close to 100 million people watch the Super Bowl, making the Super Bowl annually the most watched television program. The Super Bowl is the one event that families gather together to watch.

The Super Bowl has evolved from a football game (a championship game) to an unofficial American holiday. The Super Bowl is much more than a football game – it’s an American institution and its very big business.

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