On Sunday, February 7th, life in the Unites States will briefly come to a halt. Streets will be vacated as people will gather in front of the television screens in homes, restaurants, and bars to watch the final of the 2015 National Football League (NFL) season, more commonly known as “The Super Bowl”. Of the more than 110 million people who generally watch the game in the U.S., many tune in for the actual game. But many are more interested in the spectacular half-time show while some are mainly interested in the new commercial campaigns during the breaks. This year, the two teams fighting for the title in the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California (near San Francisco) are the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
The Super Bowl is a prime example of a truly American event with seemingly very little external influences. In the United States, football is the most popular professional sport, boasting the highest attendance of any sporting league in the world and is also the most popular sport in high school and college. The contrast between the popularity of football in the United States and the rest of the world is striking. In Europe, football is hardly played and watched at all. The NFL has attempted to become more international by, for example, sponsoring a European development league (NFL Europe (1991-2007)) and planning an occasional NFL game abroad as part of the NFL International Series, but with very little direct results.
related Article: The NFL’s Future in Europe
Given that football is such a “typically American” sport, practiced and watched by Americans, it is striking to observe that European companies play such a major role in sponsoring and organizing the event off the field. This becomes obvious during the extremely popular commercial breaks where a 30 second advertisement can cost up to 5 million dollars. European automotive companies, such as BMW, Audi, Mini, and Mercedes, use this valuable airtime to persuade Americans to buy their products. Moreover, many of the companies that traditionally advertise during the Super Bowl – and which may seem as American as apple pie – have strong European ties. Some are even owned by European companies. Two examples are the Anheuser-Busch brewery known for beers such as Budweiser and Bud light, which was purchased by the Belgian-Brazilian brewery AB-InBev in 2008, and Weight Watchers that an investment fund representing European families purchased from Heinz in 1999.
A less obvious example of European presence during the Super Bowl is the half-time show: the British band Coldplay will headline this year. Last year, American viewers were mesmerized by a video projection during pop star Katy Perry’s performance. Eighty projectors changed the playing field into a virtual bending chessboard or a tropical island paradise. The technology that made this possible comes from the Belgian company Barco, which is active in more than 90 countries and employs more than 3,300 people worldwide.
Another example of a European involvement is German-based SAP, which will provide entertainment outside the stadium in “Super Bowl City”. The company has created an interactive game, in which a fan wearing a virtual reality headset becomes a quarterback in simulated game situations like avoiding getting sacked or throwing a game-winning touchdown pass. Fans can see how they fare against other competitors on a scoreboard.
Although the Super Bowl is typically American, it clearly demonstrates how a major event provides unique opportunities for companies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (and the rest of the world) to promote their assets in a variety of areas such as culture, technology, and trade. The same opportunities will present themselves later in 2016 on the European continent during the Champions’ League final on May 28 in Milan, where the Ford Motor Company had been the main sponsor for 21 years, and the UEFA European Cup Soccer in June and July in France. Some of UEFA’s official U.S. based sponsors are the hamburger restaurant MacDonalds and the soft drink company Coca Cola.
As opposed to the Super Bowl, where there has to be a winner, the opportunities created by these events can generate a “win” for all participants.
The USEU Press Team