Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Fluffy Blue-Collar Super Bowl

Few could miss the economic symbolism of the two team names in this year‘s Super Bowl. It is not just that these are two of the old-time teams in the NFL — no other team names in the league say “a long day of physical labor” the way “Steelers” and “Packers” do. It’s a fitting symbol for a country where people are working harder than ever right now, and for rewards that are more uncertain than we have seen in a lifetime.

The advertising sponsors for the Super Bowl, though, are decidedly more light and fluffy than we have ever seen. I’m sure viewers have gotten used to seeing corn chips alongside the beer and pickup trucks, but the presenting sponsor this year is in the pizza business, and some of the more prominent advertisers in the run-up to the game have included cookies and designer soft drinks. Some of the biggest stars appearing in the commercials during the game broadcast will reportedly be promoting video game controllers and flowers.

Flowers? Well, it makes some sense if you consider that the Super Bowl is happening closer to Valentine’s Day than ever before, but it is still a stark change in image for the NFL. The league made itself “hard-hitting” to sell beer and pickup trucks, and now it may have to put more emphasis on fluffier attributes such as “slick” and “smart” if it wants to sell flowers and cookies. This change in image makes its way into the game itself. I’m sure it is a small part of the reason for the league’s increased enforcement emphasis on rules intended to reduce the risk of injury. When players get seriously hurt playing a game, that doesn’t look very slick or smart.