Why the Super Bowl is still the biggest game in town


On Feb. 4, Super Bowl XLI will draw an enormous audience of fans nailed to their couches, transfixed by television’s most enduring spectacle.

There will also be a football game.

As we all know, part of the genius in the marketing of the Super Bowl is that the ads, generally created especially for the telecast, are as much a part of the event as beer burps and thick necks. Peter Gardiner, chief media officer of ad agency Deutsch, had a fine time attending the Bowl last year save for one thing: “I missed the commercials,” he says.

If, like me, you hope one day the Super Bowl and its attendant mania will start shrinking like so many other mass-media spectacles–well, forget it. The broadcast nets scramble to right their listing ships, but the Super Bowl blithely sails on. Last year the single best-rated TV program–besting any series’ offering by 2 to 1–was the Super Bowl. In second place, also by a wide margin: the Super Bowl’s postgame show. These numbers are extra juiced by the perception that live sports and big events are TiVo-proof, and that with the Super Bowl, there is the expectation that ads are, for once, worth sticking around for.