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COVID’s Impact on our Super Bowl Spending

When you add it all up, how much money is spent on the Super Bowl? How much do we really consume on Super Bowl Sunday? And how much do we wager?

While those are interesting topics to explore as we get ready for Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the reality is that COVID will cast a massive shadow over this year’s game. Let’s explore.

The First Super Bowl

The inaugural Super Bowl took place in January 1967. The Green Bay Packers, who had already won several NFL championships in that decade, beat the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Super Bowl I was seen by 51 million television viewers. A 30-second commercial cost $42,000 and admission to the game cost $12 for the best seats in the house. To put this number into perspective, today that costs about the same amount for a single craft beer.

Television Audience & Tickets

The Super Bowl phenomenon has grown as the years have passed. In 2020, about 99.9 million viewers watched the Super Bowl, up slightly from the 98.2 million Americans that watched the big game the year before, which happened to be one of the smallest audiences to watch a Super Bowl in over a decade. But last year did reverse the four-year trend of declining Super Bowl ratings. This year, the number of viewers is expected to be well over 100 million.

The average cost of tickets to Super Bowl LV is hard to calculate because there are so many moving parts including limited capacity, but this year’s average cost is more than double last year’s $4,500 average per ticket. In fact, according to Vivid Seats, the least expensive tickets available a week out from the game were a pack of four tickets in upper-level corner section 329, row Z, for $27,610 including fees, or $6,902 per ticket.

Vivid Seats further reports that the average ticket sold so far, before fees, was $11,986. Or, if you want a fantastic seat, there are a few resellers offering tickets upward of $300,000.

Television Commercials

The commercials aired during the Super Bowl have received quite a bit of attention over the years and Super Bowl commercial watch parties have become quite popular. Because it is such a watched event with very high TV ratings, advertisers develop especially creative, impressive television commercials geared specifically for the gigantic Super Bowl audience. And they also pay a lot to air them: a 30-second commercial now costs a cool $5.6 million.

More recently, social media now figures prominently in conversations over the effectiveness of Super Bowl advertising. And it is the Super Bowl conversations on social media that advertisers are so desperate to figure out.

Consider these stats from last year’s game as reported by Nielsen:

• In the U.S., there were 43.9 million social media interactions across official Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

• The top social minute of the telecast on Twitter occurred at 8:26 ET p.m., during which 144,000 Twitter interactions following the halftime show as fans tweeted about the performance by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.

• Jennifer Lopez was the top social talent account of the game with 2.2 million engagements.

• Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the most socially engaging athlete account associated with the Super Bowl, with over 514,000 engagements.

Further, Nielsen reports that approximately 2/3 of those interactions were sent by women and almost 1/3 were sent by people aged 30 and under.

Total Spending

It should come as no surprise that people spend a huge pile of money on Super Bowl-related parties and activities. In 2020, the average consumer spent almost $88, but this year, the average spending is expected to drop to under $75 per person. The reason should not be surprising – fewer people intend to throw or go to a Super Bowl party in light of COVID.

Nevertheless, total consumer spending related to the Super Bowl this year is still expected to be about $13.9 billion. And this number has grown quickly considering as recently as 2007 consumers spent about $8.71 billion. Most of it was on food and beverages then too, but consumers also shelled out money for team apparel and accessories, Super Bowl-specific merchandise, decorations, new televisions, and even furniture.

Here is some useless trivia on how much Americans buy and consume on Super Bowl Sunday, which is the second largest food consumption event in the U.S. behind only Thanksgiving.

Collectively, we will consume approximately:

• 1.5 billion chicken wings

• 28 million pounds of chips

• 10 million pounds of bacon

• 10 million pounds of guacamole

• 350 million gallons of beer

To keep these numbers in perspective, let’s remember that there are about 328 million people in the U.S., with almost 75 million under the age of 21. Will you drink a gallon and a half of beer? Before you answer, remember that’s about 16 12-oz beers.

And what happens when we eat so much junk food and drink so much beer? Why, we call in sick the next day! In fact, it’s estimated that last year over 17 million people did not report to work on “Super Sick Monday,” resulting in a loss of about $1 billion in productivity.

But with so many people working from home, maybe this year will be different?

Gambling is Huge

This year’s Super Bowl is expected to see a huge drop in betting, with estimates expecting Super Bowl betting to drop close to 40% due to COVID. For comparison, last year it was estimated that almost 26 million Americans wagered about $6.8 billion.


The Super Bowl has become the largest entertainment phenomenon in American history. And aside from World Cup soccer in many other countries, it is the largest sporting event in the world. Hundreds of millions of people watch the game, including the commercials that cost millions to make and air. We spend billions of dollars on the Super Bowl and consume millions of gallons of beer and millions of pounds of food. We comment incessantly on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to our conversations at home, at work, or via telephone or e-mail.

And we will bet about half as much money on a football game as we spent online during Amazon Prime Day (that was about $10 billion).

Makes you wonder, does anyone even watch the game?

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