Super Bowl LII (52) takes place this morning (Singapore time) and fans are waiting to see if the Philadelphia Eagles can win their first championship against the New England Patriots seeking their record-tying sixth.
While the playing time is only 60 minutes, it is the razzmatazz before, during and after that makes it one of the most anticipated annual events and a masterclass in sports marketing that sets the standard for events all over the world.
The sheer scale is mind-blowing: In recent years, the Super Bowl averages around 110 million US viewers. It is almost a national holiday – families and friends gather to watch the telecast and eat and drink. Indeed, statistics show Super Bowl Sunday has the second highest daily food consumption of the year in the US, behind only Thanksgiving. The Super Bowl audience is not just the US – another 50 million viewers watch around the world.
The audience size is key to attracting advertisers, and vice versa, making them co-dependent. Super Bowl has perfected the art of marketing to this co-dependency.
The Super Bowl is one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated concerts too, graced by big names such as Michael Jackson, Coldplay, Beyonce, Madonna, U2, Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones. This spectacle helps attract an unmatchable audience, which in turn attracts the world’s biggest corporations to pay heavily to advertise – over US$5 million(S$6.6 million) for a 30-second commercial this year.
Agencies invest millions to create the most talked-about spot and buy half-time slots – the only time in the year when people actually choose to watch commercials. Despite the cost, the audience size and the fact that they are choosing to pay attention to your ad for once, means it can still be good value.
Interactive event apps, virtual and augmented reality simulators, loyalty rewards, fanzones, exclusive access packages and use of customer analytics… are all changing the fan experience.
Creativity is also key and this year’s Skittles commercial is an excellent example. They call it the world’s first commercial that only one person will view: a teenager named Marcos Menendez.
Their 60-second ad will not be aired to the masses – viewers will not see the ad, but will watch a Facebook live stream of Menendez watching it to see his reaction. This kind of creativity grabs attention and increases the overall brand of the event.
Let’s not forget social media: Today, over 65 million people will talk about the game on Facebook, so the biggest commercials go viral the week before, with companies often spending another US$5 million to buy online advertising space to push their spots.
WHAT CAN SINGAPORE SPORT LEARN FROM THE SUPER BOWL?
Singapore’s size imposes scale limitations, but there are still valuable lessons in how Super Bowl uses viral marketing, cross-platform media with plenty of digital, and makes fans at home and at the game feel like part of the action.
In recent years, major Singapore sporting events – particularly the WTA Finals, F1 Grand Prix and World Rugby Sevens – realised the importance of fan experience and community engagement, and the returns in terms of attendance and commercial sponsorships.
One Championship has been a leader in brand building, both online and in-person. Its social media and streaming presence are already impressive and initiatives like promoting its fighters’ playlists to fans and tie-ups with other brands have helped elevate mixed martial arts.
For venues like the Sports Hub, the way that US venues host “tailgating” (where fans drink beer and barbecue food on the back of a vehicle outside a stadium), utilise technology and create family carnival-like experiences is also aspirational.
Interactive event apps, virtual and augmented reality simulators, loyalty rewards, fanzones, exclusive access packages and use of customer analytics to tailor to individuals are all changing the fan experience.
While the idea of a Super Bowl in Singapore is simply inconceivable, there are other major American sports events that could be hosted.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has been active in growing overseas and placing games in markets like China and the Philippines, and already has a tie-up with Sport Singapore on the Junior NBA programme. An NBA game – exhibition or regular season – in the Singapore Indoor Stadium could easily attract a crowd of 15,000-20,000 locals and international visitors.
Beyond the NBA, it is difficult to see any other major sporting events that are bigger than what Singapore can already boast in its calendar – only ATP tennis could provide the same combination of global exposure, local appeal and world-class experience.
As Singapore considers new events to bring in after the WTA Finals, it can at least reflect on its strong stable of events with F1, International Champions Cup (ICC) football, World Rugby Sevens and others.
Singapore must continue to seek to enhance these and other events as the industry evolves to become as much entertainment as sporting, digital and physical, and about the sideline activities more than on-pitch action.
While hosting an event like the Super Bowl remains out of reach, there are still engaging sports opportunities out there to attract. With the reputation that Singapore has built as a world-class sporting venue, the limitations of size can be overcome with innovative planning and creative marketing.
• James Walton is Sports Business Group Leader at Deloitte South-east Asia. The views expressed are his own.