Incomplete Passes and Missed Opportunities

The Super Bowl took place this past weekend. It’s something that is typically heavily anticipated, and this year was no exception. Particularly, I thought, because this year was the year of Super Bowl 50. Now, those that know me– and even if you don’t– may not be surprised to know that sports just isn’t my thing. As a geek and a nerd, sports in general are something I’ve avoided my whole life. However, I do understand (in the vernacular of The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper) that there is a social convention surrounding sports, so I try to stay somewhat informed of what’s happening by reading news headlines and the like. The result is that I can carry, at the very least, a “cocktail party” conversation about sports.

All this to say that I’m not an expert on the particulars of football, but that’s not what this post is ultimately about.

Like I mentioned earlier, this past weekend was Super Bowl weekend, so there was a a lot of hoopla and anticipation surrounding it. Every year advertisers trot out EXTREMELY expensive ads– both in the creation and in the placement. The halftime show is also typically a water cooler moment for a lot of people. So with all this I was expecting an out of the ordinary collection of events.

Out of the ordinary we got. But not in the way I expected.

First off, let’s get one thing out of the way. There’s no way to determine ahead of time WHO will be playing (If we could, it would amount to a conspiracy and collusion by a number of parties that would make everyone’s head spin), so I’m not including the actual football played into my observations on SB50. I will say I found the game interesting and was not displeased with seeing the Denver Broncos win. I would have preferred to see the Carolina Panthers come out on top, but that’s just a matter of preference here. The other elements– ads and entertainment– are a whole other thing altogether.

The Ads

Super Bowl Sunday typically is considered one of those tentpole events, and advertisers in all categories take the opportunity to go out of their way creating attention-grabbing ads. It’s usually the time when the big summer movies drop trailers, beer and auto companies unveil expensive, slickly-produced ads, and (what I like to call) insurgent companies try to break through the noise with attention-grabbing commercials made to get people talking monday morning. If any of these companies are lucky, the talk and buzz around the water cooler is positive. Sometimes, you even get a slew of companies within the same industry competing for attention (remember the dot-boom of the early ’00s?).

Unfortunately, this year really saw little of any of that. I suppose part of it can be attributed to the continuing and increasing power of the online world and our access to information. As far as I’m concerned, there were only 1-2 ads that caught my attention. There was the Doritos “sonogram” ad early on, and whose surprise ending really got me. The other was far more subtle. It was the Audi “astronaut” commercial, which used David Bowie’s “Starman”. Oh yeah, there was the one with Jeff Goldblum and Little Wayne (“Weezy”). Aside from that, there were no other standouts for me. No major new trailers for upcoming summer movies were released. Even Budweiser’s ads were nothing to be excited over. Remember when it was a given there would be a “big” Budweiser Super Bowl ad? This year– nowhere to be found. I’m not sure why, but it was like Madison Avenue decided to phone it in this year.


Here’s where I think the NFL and the Super Bowl powers-that-be really missed an opportunity. It was Super Bowl 50. A milestone moment. Half a century’s worth of entertainment and heritage. The biggest stage on what is arguably the biggest sporting event in the US. The time to bring out the big guns and blow the roof off the joint. Who you gonna call?

Coldplay. Beyonce. Bruno Mars.

Let me be clear. I like all those acts. And on any other year they would have been a fine show– alone or in a any combo. But this was THE 50th. This was the time to go with big names, with big, iconic performers to showcase what this event is all about. A time to even try and bring back past performers, to extend the run time of the halftime show– I’m sure the audience would be ok with it this time. it was a chance to break the bank a little and “do it proper”.

It was a time to go big. And they dropped the ball.

The Post-Game Wrap-up

It’s hard to wrap things up, since these are just my observations. I hope that for future milestones organizers will take a bit of a calculated risk and treat the event with the importance it likely deserves, rather than playing it safe and giving the public something that is just “ok”

Give them something to remember, and they’ll remember you for it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Let’s continue the discussion in the comments.