It is rare that a cold weather city gets to host a Super Bowl. Over 70% of past Super Bowls were hosted in either California, Louisiana or Florida. Only six times has the NFL granted a city north of the Mason-Dixon line to host the big game; Minneapolis twice, Detroit twice, Indianapolis and New York City once each. Five of those six games were played indoors. In the 60s and 70s the criteria for being a host city was a lot simpler, when the main factor was choosing someplace warm and dry. Multipurpose domed stadiums became popular in the 80s, allowing northern cities to be considered. In the 90s, the rise of the halftime show turned the game into an event. It attracted non-football fans to not only watch the game, but keep watching. More television viewers meant more money spent on advertising as companies battled for screen time in the most watched time slot of the year.
The cost of a 30-second commercial, at Super Bowl I, in 1967 was just $42,000. This year it cost around $5 million. These commercials tend to have the most dramatic effects on smaller companies advertising during the Super Bowl for the first time. Larger companies that are Super Bowl staples tend to use their time slot to entertain and drum up social media mentions. Advertising individual products alone does little to sway brand loyalty, but making a funny or cute ad that humanizes your company leads to a more favorable image. Tide achieved just that by mocking commercial troupes in an effort to counter the negative publicity surrounding their Tide Pods.
It’s not just corporations that hope to boost their brand’s image on Super Bowl Sundays, the host cities do too. For cities not named Los Angeles, New Orleans or Miami, having a Super Bowl is a rare opportunity to sell itself on a national stage. Whether it tries to increase tourism, attract new corporations, or establish itself culturally, host cities are put on full display in the days leading up to the game. In their mission statement below, the Minnesota Super Bowl Committee has branded our state as the “Bold North,” to show that winter here isn’t exactly how it’s portrayed in the movie Fargo.
Utilizing our bold new stadium as a backdrop and the exposure generated by this tremendous event, we will introduce the world to Minnesota’s authentic, Bold North brand, reflecting the diverse and innovative culture of our state, by creating and implementing the preeminent Super Bowl experience that delivers on our promises;
generating a significant economic impact for the state and providing a lasting legacy for all of Minnesota.
The economic benefits becomes a key selling point to the public, even extending its influence beyond Minneapolis to the entire state. The lasting impact could come from increased tourism. In an APM Research Lab survey conducted nation-wide, 37% of respondents said they were "more likely to think of Minneapolis as a good place to visit" as a result of media coverage of the Super Bowl. However, with only about half of the nearly 1,000 respondents being able to identify Minneapolis or Minnesota as the host, the benefit of the exposure comes into question.
Les Carpenter of The Guardian wrote about the potential economic windfall In Houston, the host city last February. “In the end, Super Bowl cities aren’t buying themselves an economic boost… What Houston is getting this week is what the San Francisco Bay area got last year and Phoenix the year before that. They are purchasing the kind of civic pride that makes politicians’ hearts thump with joy. And civic pride doesn’t necessarily translate into real dollars.” When other factors such as the cost of the stadium, security and transportation are factored in, the benefits dwindle even more. This story may sound similar to corporations who pay a lot of money for Super Bowl ads with few returns.
Despite a lack of return on investment, the Super Bowl remains the premier event in American advertising. Costs for ad time continues to rise, as does the cost of hosting. Companies running ads might get more "bang for their buck" by using a more targeted campaign or improving their customer experience, much in the same way Minneapolis could’ve used stadium money to update our aging infrastructure. But what CEO or Mayor could pass up the opportunity to be at the center of American culture, if just for one day.