05 Feb 2016
The Business of the NFL and Super Bowl 50

The National Football League took in more than $7 billion in revenue from its various television deals alone during the 2014 season according to ESPN. That profitability, which has accelerated in recent years and is more than double the $3 billion the NFL earned in 2010, makes it one of the richest (if not the richest) sporting leagues in the world.

As the NFL's popularity has burgeoned, so too has television viewership for its games. That's especially true of the Super Bowl, the most-watched sporting event in the United States, which now draws more than 100 million viewers anually. All those eyeballs account for why host networks are able to charge such high advertising rates during the game. This year's host, CBS, is charging $5 million for a single 30-second spot.

Harvard Business School associate professor Thales Teixeira, an expert in marketing, pays close attention to advertisers' strategies for the big game. In recent years, Teixeira says spots have increasingly moved to capitalize on the fact that most viewers are watching the Super Bowl with smartphones in hand. The kind of direct audience response smartphones have enabled helps explain why ad rates continue to rise for the NFL's marquee game and businesses continue to pay it.

For more NFL-related cases and research, see the links and description below:

  • The Super Bowl according to Business of Sports Expert Stephen Greyser - Harvard Business School professor emeritus Stephen A. Greyser, an authority on advertising, marketing, and the business of sports, has been watching Super Bowls since the beginning. He offered some thoughts in a recent interview.
  • The Long Run: the Impact of Brain Injuries on the NFL - Today’s NFL is fast-paced and hard-hitting. Though players are well-compensated, many wonder about the long-term cost of those violent collisions on the athletes, the league, and culture at large. Harvard Business School Professor Richard Hamermesh discusses those implications and his case “The National Football League and Brain Injuries” on the latest episode of Cold Call.
  • CEOs and Coaches: How Important is Organizational 'Fit?' - How big a factor is matching the right coach with the right team? As the Super Bowl approaches, Boris Groysberg and Abhijit Naik discuss football-related research that also has implications for the world of corporate hiring.
  • NFL Black Monday: How Much Do Coaches Really Matter? - Teams planning management changes on "Black Monday" can learn much from academic research on National Football League coaches, say Boris Groysberg and Abhijit Naik. The findings hold value not only for football teams, but for any organization that depends on leadership for success.
  • Deflategate and the Sustained Success of the New England Patriots - A new Harvard Business School case study by Marco Iansiti challenges students to explain the continued success of the New England Patriots football team and the dynamics behind the Deflategate episode.
  • Creating the Perfect Super Bowl Ad - Professor Thales S. Teixeira says TV viewers lose purchasing interest when ads get too caught up in entertainment. His advice for the perfect pitch: tie together a good story and a compelling brand.

    And don't miss HBS professors Bharat Anand, Jan Hammond, and V.G. Narayanan debating the merits of halftime sponsorship and other statistical components of the Super Bowl while wearing eyeblack and tossing the pigskin:

    Related Cases
    The Globalization of the NFL
    The NFL's Digital Media Strategy

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