Super Bowl LVI and the NFL marketing mix.

The Super Bowl is a sporting event like no other. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, 2021 saw a Super Bowl like no other.

Last year’s edition of the National Football League (NFL) championship game featured a limited crowd and very few of the promotional and hospitality sideshows that typically define the build-up. That will all change this year as Los Angeles hosts Super Bowl LVI, back to full capacity and close to full power.

For the league, it also represents a return to one of the world’s biggest media markets. Los Angeles went without an NFL team from 1995 to 2015, until the LA Rams and then the LA Chargers returned from St Louis and San Diego respectively. The Rams now take on the Cincinnati Bengals at their SoFi Stadium home, which opened for a pandemic-affected season in 2020 and houses both the city’s teams.

Part of a $5 billion entertainment complex, the 70,420-capacity SoFi Stadium anchored Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s plan to relocate from Missouri. Its technological capabilities will be shown off in a Twitter promotion in which fans’ predictions and other selected messages are displayed in LED lights on its roof.

A few months ago the NFL completed its own new facility in LA, opening a 450,000 square foot west coast headquarters to serve as a base for its media operations. A California-heavy halftime show featuring Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg is a nod to the cultural significance of an LA return but the investment in the city, ahead of the 2028 Olympics, is a signal of its growing industry influence.

Television viewing figures will be the highest for any programme of the year in the US – lending weight to the $110 billion, 11-year domestic media rights deals signed in early 2021. Still, there is evidence elsewhere of a marketing evolution around the game. Ticket-holders for Super Bowl LVI can secure NFTs as a digital memento. Meanwhile, digital media giant Meta – formerly Facebook – has created NFL-branded clothing for 3D avatars that can be used across its platforms.

Ultimately, any Super Bowl comes down to the players. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took last year’s title after Tom Brady – a six-time champion with the New England Patriots – won his personal battle with his likely successor as the league’s preeminent quarterback: the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.

Neither will feature this time. Mahomes and the Chiefs were eliminated by the Bengals in the NFC Conference Game. 44-year-old Brady’s Buccaneers fell just short against the Buffalo Bills a round earlier, before he brought his 22-season career to a close. His post-career plans combine investments and the stewardship of personal brands like his TB12 wellness company. He is also the co-founder of NFT platform Autograph, which produces signature collectibles for iconic athletes like Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, Tiger Woods, and Wayne Gretzy, as well as Canadian singer The Weeknd.

Brady’s place in American culture and commerce is secure but the way is clear now for others to step up. The Bengals’ Joe Burrow and the Rams’ Matthew Stafford will have their chance to be stars in LA.

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