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We’ll all be watching the Super Bowl, but why? USC experts weigh in

Sunday’s big game between Atlanta and New England will surely generate super ratings; politics and spectacle play a big role, and so do some deflated footballs

Tom Brady
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a source of controversy in this year’s Super Bowl for more than one reason. (Photo/Keith Allison)

This Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots is overshadowed by politics, including the lingering tensions over “deflategate,” while it is business as usual for advertisers that hope to cash in on viewers, USC experts say.


A polarizing sports dynasty for a polarized country

“The New England Patriots are again at the center of controversy for Super Bowl LI. As with the infamous deflategate Super Bowl, the Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady in particular are under scrutiny for a variety of reasons. Should the Patriots win, will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell feel comfortable handing the championship trophy to the quarterback he suspended for the first quarter of the football season due to the deflation scandal? Will Tom Brady be distracted by the political fallout of his relationship with the controversial American president, Donald Trump?

“These controversies help the league keep the country’s focus on the big game. Even on the slow days leading up to the Super Bowl, controversy creates press and press keeps the game in front of the public. With a deeply divided American public, it will be interesting to see if exploiting the already polarizing portrayal of the Patriots will lead to bigger ratings. It will also be interesting to see if the relatively quiet but immensely talented Atlanta Falcons get, to some degree, lost in the Goodell vs. Brady ballyhoo.”

DANIEL DURBIN
Director, USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media & Society


Off-field drama and production overshadow game

“While everyone will be watching the forced interactions between the Patriots’ leadership — owner Robert Kraft and quarterback Tom Brady — and the commissioner to see how awkward the relationship has become, this is but one more example of how the football is often secondary to the spectacle.

“For many years, more people have watched for the premiere of A-level advertising. Whether the game is a good one or not, the ads are always great to watch. A well-watched game of rivals makes the experience even better, but now is a complement to the Super Bowl, not the reason for being.”

JEFFREY COLE
Director of the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism


Ads a great way for brands to blow millions of dollars

“It is true that the Super Bowl affords advertisers the opportunity to reach a huge audience at a time when audiences are fragmented over too many different media. The tragedy is that too many viewers do not remember very much about the brands or products advertised. While many say they like the commercials in the moment, they do not remember the products for very long afterwards, and they certainly do not buy them as a result.”

IRA KALB
Assistant professor of clinical marketing, USC Marshall School of Business

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We’ll all be watching the Super Bowl, but why? USC experts weigh in

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