Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events of the year. In 2014, it was played on February 2nd between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. While how the game is played and who wins is very important, there is more to the issue. For example, a large part of the Super Bowl is the media coverage it receives. With the popularity of the internet, and especially the popularity of micro-blogging sites like Twitter, people who could not be at the game and who do not even own a television (or were not able to watch the game on television) could keep up with all the game had to offer.
Many people watched the game on television, read about it online through fan sites and other outlets, and also followed what was taking place through the #SB48 hashtag on Twitter. Team hashtags were also popular, because they provided even more information for those who wanted to know what was taking place and what the coaches, players, and others on the sidelines were saying during the actual game. With so many different options for media coverage, there were numerous opportunities for sports marketing.
Marketing is not just about the commercials that appear during something such as the Super Bowl. Sports marketing provides a high level of information about the actual game, teams, and support personnel that make a sporting event happen (Beech & Chadwick, 34). During the Super Bowl, Twitter was extremely busy with facts, opinions, updates on the game, and information about the players, coaches, and others involved with bringing the teams together. Fan sites were also frequently updated, as were blogs and other online options.
Originally, people who wanted to see a sporting event had to actually go to the event. While a large number of people still do this, even more watch the event on television. A large number of marketers use television broadcasts to reach out to target audiences and gain customers (Kotler & Keller, 45). Television is considered “traditional” when it comes to media outlets, along with radio and print (newspapers and magazines). The play-by-play announcer, sideline reporters, and others who provided commentary and information for the Super Bowl began the broadcast with the belief that the game was going to be very tight and that the game would come down to the wire.
All the media speculation in the days leading up to the Super Bowl had set the tone for the game, and the predictions on sports shows were all for a close game between two excellent teams. During the lead-up to the first play, all that was talked about by commentators throughout traditional media channels was the closeness of the opponents. As soon as the game began and Seattle scored two points on a safety 12 seconds in, the tone was set for the rest of the Super Bowl. Commentators were shocked that the Seahawks had scored so easily and so quickly, but it was possible that it was a fluke. By the half, it was clear that it was not a fluke, and the commentary had changed drastically.
The rest of the game was spent trying to make the Super Bowl appear as though it was still a contest, and attempting to keep the commentary efficient and fair for everyone. It was obvious, however, that Seattle was going to win. Despite that, the commentators took care to ensure that they did not become too one-sided, as it is not appropriate for commentators to a sporting event to clearly take sides or show preference.
Online media was far different than the traditional channels when it came to how the Super Bowl was presented. The Seattle Seahawks website, for example, posted frequent updates (Seattle). One of the benefits of fan sites is that they do not have to be unbiased, unlike traditional media outlets that need to remain focused on the value and quality of both teams. Still, there were a number of unbiased online sites, as well. Many sites focused on one team or the other, and many focused on the game itself. However, it became increasingly difficult to remain unbiased when it became obvious that Seattle was going to win easily. Blogs and other online outlets focused on everything the Broncos were doing wrong and everything Seattle was doing right, with little regard to remaining balanced.
When it comes to sports marketing, it is important to market to the right people (Beech & Chadwick, 59). The target audience must be receptive to the information being provided, and it has to be given to them in a way they can appreciate (Kotler & Keller, 78). In other words, fan sites need to cater to those fans, whether the team is winning or losing at that time. For the Seahawks, that was easy to do doing the Super Bowl. They were on top from the very beginning, and they stayed there. For the Broncos, it was not as easy. With the way the game went even in the first quarter, many fans were already demoralized.
By the half, some had given up completely and had already stopped checking on the score of the game. It was not a lack of interest in their team, but a decision not to watch their team continue to lose a game that was so very important. Online communities that were providing information about both teams quickly focused on the Seahawks in an effort to bring in more customers, readers, and interested parties.
Twitter is a relatively unique entity. The biggest issue on the micro-blogging site during the Super Bowl was not who was winning, but how and why they were winning. Most of that centered around the defense Seattle provided, as well as the way the Broncos kept turning over the ball. It was surprising, because the teams seemed to be so well matched going in. As soon as the game started, however, Twitter began providing updates that were almost entirely focused on the Seahawks. The tweets that focused on the Broncos were generally not complimentary, and that was especially true when it came to information regarding Peyton Manning and his (lack of) ability to move the ball down the field.
Because Twitter is a site where anyone can post, and information can be placed on it instantly, it provides a much different platform for information than traditional media outlets. It is also much more biased, since fans of various sports teams have Twitter accounts and they post whatever they like, regardless of whether it is offensive to the other team or the other team’s fans. Being so unique when compared with other types of media outlets has caused Twitter to have some growing pains, but it is evolving as an outlet for providing instant information before other sites are able to do so.
That was a large part of the reason so many people followed along with the Super Bowl on Twitter. They may not have been able to watch the game, or they may not have wanted to, but they knew they would be able to get quick updates from the teams, the NFL, and random people using the #SB48 hashtag. Sports marketers interested in selling products can also use Twitter, especially when focusing on the value of the hashtag for something as large and closely followed as the Super Bowl.
The Comparison of Sporting Event Reporting
There are several main points that have to be addressed when looking at the three different media outlets and how they handled coverage of the Super Bowl. This will provide a more complete picture of sports marketing, and also give insight into the marketing of the Super Bowl itself. When a media outlet provides information on a particular sporting event, how that information is presented can vary greatly based on the particular media outlet and its reputation and style. Not all outlets of the same type provide the same information, of course, but they are closer to one another in nature than they are to other types of outlets that provide a far different type of information.
Traditional media provides an unbiased opinion when it comes to reporting on sporting events. This was seen during the Super Bowl from the reporters who were in the booth and those down on the sidelines. It was also seen from commentators who were addressing the play by play of the game. Since there was a great deal to discuss when it came to the Seahawks and much less to be said about the Broncos, it was difficult to keep things even when it came to the reporting between the two teams. However, traditional media outlets seen to consider it their “job” to make sure the reporting remains relatively even, so they are not accused of playing favorites between two teams or players at a sporting event.
Online reporting of sporting events like the Super Bowl is very different from what is seen in traditional media, mostly because there are different types of entities reporting online. These include actual news and sports sites that are more like traditional outlets in the way they report unbiased information, but there are also fan sites, the NFL and official team sites, and random sites such as blogs that provide information. Many of the more casual and/or fan-based sites offer much more in the way of opinion, and they easily and quickly take sides. They make no secret of where their loyalty lies.
Twitter is an extension of the online sites. It is similar in nature to the overall online presence of other sites, but different mostly in the immediacy of the information presented on it. Those who are interested in sports marketing must be aware of the value of sites like Twitter, because it provides such a quick way for information to be gathered and shared with others. On Super Bowl Sunday, tweets about the game were easy to find, and they were highly varied when it came to what they discussed and who they supported. Because so much of Twitter is used-generated media as opposed to the more traditional, journalistic outlets, the mix of information and opinion a person receives there is very different from what he or she would expect from TV or print media.
Marketing sports and sporting events requires time and effort when it is being handled from a traditional standpoint, but there is also a great deal of marketing seen in an unofficial capacity. Traditional media outlets provide official marketing of sporting events like the Super Bowl, while online outlets provide a mix of both official and unofficial information. Sites like Twitter can provide some official information from team and NFL tweets, but most of the Twitter information provides about the Super Bowl came from fan opinion and thought. That is a very different type of marketing for sports events, and can change the way in which fans and potential fans look at a team, sport, or league. Media is very powerful, but the internet age has changed the way that power is used.
Beech, John, & Chadwick, Simon. The marketing of Sport. Prentice Hall and Financial Times. 2006. Print.
Kotler, Philip & Keller, L. Kevin. Marketing Management 14e. Pearson Education Limited. 2012. Print.
Seattle Seahawks. http://www.seahawks.com/super-bowl/48/index.html. 2014. Web.
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