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2021 Super Bowl Observations

Feb 10, 2021

The Super Bowl is the most watched American television broadcast event each year, attracting millions of viewers worldwide. The stakes are always high for the world’s biggest game, but in the most atypical year, when there was a global pandemic, economic crisis and racial injustice, the stakes were higher than ever. Super Bowl LV was held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and it featured the returning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was the first time in NFL history that the big game was a home game for one of the teams competing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Although they were prohibited from firing their cannons after touchdowns and big plays so as to not give them even more home field advantage than they already had, this did not stop Tom Brady and his team as they defeated Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs in a convincing 31-9 win. This victory marked the Buccaneers second Super Bowl win in as many appearances while at the same time it was Tom Brady’s tenth appearance, an NFL record, and seventh win, making him the first player to ever win seven Super Bowls.

All 22,000 fans in attendance of Super Bowl LV were required to adhere to the league’s strict guidelines for in-person attendance, which included mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing. Of those in attendance, 7,500 fans were vaccinated health care workers from all over the country in the league’s attempt to honor health care workers for their extraordinary efforts these past 11 months. While the stadium was filled to approximately 38% capacity, it appeared full thanks to the NFL selling 30,000 cardboard cutouts. Fans paid $100 each which helped make up a portion of the lost ticket sale revenue and provided physical distance between pods of paying fans and health care heroes. Additionally, new game-day procedures were implemented including ticketless entry, organized pod seating, contactless bathrooms, cashless food vendors, thermal imaging at entrances and portable hand sanitizing stations around the stadium.

Super Bowl Sunday is the most expensive TV program for advertisers each year. Ads this year cost approximately $5.5 million for a 30-second spot. Being the unusual year it is, many popular brands chose to sit this year out. Most notable is Budweiser who chose to reallocate some of its ad dollars to the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative. Other notables skipping the big game were Coke, Pepsi and Hyundai citing financial uncertainty or refocusing. Those brands that did advertise either presented a lighthearted spot (Cheetos, T-Mobile, Tide, General Motors) or chose to reference the divisiveness and the need for unity (Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Jeep, Toyota, to name a few).

The Weeknd’s innovative halftime show featured a medley of his top hits, backup dancers wearing bandage masks, a gospel choir and a ‘funhouse-like’ dance through a series of gold mirrors. The Weeknd took full advantage of the stadium, for the first time since the very first Super Bowl in 1967 (at the time dubbed the AFL-NFL World Championship Game), not being at full capacity and performed solo (sans special guests) on a stage set up in the stands. In this unusual year, he still wanted to make his vision a reality and contributed a whopping $7 million of his own money to make the halftime show come to life. According to The New York Times, his performance featured only about 1,050 people, compared to the usual 2,000-3,000 who are normally involved in the behind the scenes and execution.

The Super Bowl presents a wealth of opportunities for those who like to gamble on the big game. In addition to traditional sports bets that set odds on the winner or loser as well as the total points to be scored, the Super Bowl offers a number of proposition bets (like the length of the National Anthem to whether the Weeknd was going to be seen in sunglasses at the start of the halftime show to the color of liquid that would be poured on the winning coach) that even the least sports-savvy viewer can get interested in. While the Super Bowl is always a fun time to put a few small wagers together with family, friends or colleagues, the growth of legal sports gambling around the country underscores the appetite for betting.

Here’s hoping that brighter days will be had at Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles on February 6, 2022!

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Brett Vinokur

Brett Vinokur is an Audit Senior Manager with years of audit and accounting experience serving both public and private entities with a focus on sports and entertainment, manufacturing and distribution, and financial services.

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