How “super” the Super Bowl really is

Super Bowl Sunday.

It’s the unofficial national holiday that has fans flocking to the front of their television screens with cell phones just a hand reach away.

The very first Super Bowl took place on January 15, 1967 and has been dubbed the “Big Game” ever since.

But the question isn’t IF this moniker is true, but rather HOW true.

Super Bowl XLIX can be summed up in many ways, but it’s about who you ask. The undisputable fact is the New England Patriots hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time in 14 years after sealing a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the final minute of regulation.

The game was the core product this past Sunday. Meaning, without the two National Football League (NFL) teams in the Patriots and Seahawks, the night that is the “Big Game” would be nothing more than a blip in the eyes of the consumer. The much-anticipated commercials and half-time show would never have any place in the Super Bowl broadcast if the game itself did not exist.

The term “Super Bowl” would mean nothing to a national audience. But looking at a sports management and communication standpoint, let’s examine how “super” last night was.

According to Nielsen Ratings, Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast on NBC was watched by 114.4 million viewers. Not only did that rank as the most-watched in the history of the Super Bowl but also in the history of telecasts in the United States.

Additionally, 1.3 million of the viewers tuned into the game via NBC’s web streaming. That number was the highest-ever number of concurrent streaming viewers for a Super Bowl.

In turn, Super Bowl XLIX produced the highest rated game in its illustrious history. A rating is an estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. That rating peaked at 52.9 according to the NBA Public Relations office, which broke the previous record set two years ago by nearly 3 percent.

Quite the “Big Game.”

And producing the Super Bowl product for that mass audience to see is an entirely different ball game.

“Visually, [the game] was astounding,” said Mark Mattheis, assistant broadcasting professor in the communication department. “As a professional, you appreciate the production of an event like that.

I asked one of my television production classes how many cameras they think NBC used to broadcast the game. My students thought it was 20 or so, and I just laughed and said, ‘a lot more than that.’ ”

NBC used a total of 46 cameras, 100 microphones, and a crew of 500 people.

Even fans that attended the game had the opportunity to download the newly launched in-stadium Super Bowl app that allowed for an enhanced experience. The NFL Mobile From Verizon app gave only those fans inside the University of Phoenix Stadium access to instant replays from four different camera angles, commercials they are missing, and live streaming, stats, and articles.

“I knew this was coming,” said Dr. David Tyler, assistant professor of sport management. “Doing something like this provides exclusive value only for those in the stadium. You want people to come to the game. You don’t want to give people a reason to stay home.”

At home or in the stadium, the social media landscape took over the fans tuned into last night’s game.

Super Bowl XLIX saw 28.4 million posts on Twitter and more than 65 million on Facebook during the game worldwide. Both numbers shattered previous Super Bowl records set in the past two seasons.

Senior communication major and broadcasting student Janson Silvers was just one of those people following and tweeting during the game.

“I like to see what others are thinking,” said Silvers. “It’s entertaining to me to talk to other people about sport, and the aspect of following football experts’ takes on the game. It’s interesting to see those perspectives.”

But why are fans consumed by social media during the largest live event in the United States?

“The thing with sport is people consume [it] socially,” said Dr. Tyler. “We care about the Super Bowl because other people care about it. Tweeting provides that connection to others. You’re sharing in a collective experience watching this game, and it reinforces that social connection.”

It is that connection between the fans — consumers — that makes the Super Bowl an experience unlike any other. And the ratings and audience viewership speak for themselves.

Quite the “Big Game.”