The Super Bowl is super business, and it doesn't matter whether the Bengals or the 49ers win. Months before football's main event, entrepreneurs everywhere were lining up to profit from the big game.
Although it ain't hay, the players' shares certainly don't account for the largest slice of the Super Bowl pie: Each member of the winning team receives $36,000 and each loser gets $18,000.While a player's annual salary may increase, the winning athlete's best friend has become the commercial endorsements and other cash spinoffs available to the winners.
Joe Namath rode to celebrity and fortune on the wings of his Super Bowl III victory. And, although Jim McMahon's salary from the Bears is not one of the highest in the NFL, in 1987 he earned $3 million in endorsements.
Even the coaches get into the act. Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka has turned his recognition into a powerful marketing tool. Ditka exacts nearly $150,000 for each national television commercial and $35,000 for local spots. Ditka plugs anything and everything, from autos to airlines to antihistamines. He also owns restaurants.
Then there are the advertisers themselves. The Super Bowl has set the stage for some of the most innovative and expensive advertisements on television.
This year's Super Bowl sponsors will pay $1.35 million a minute for commercial time to reach an estimated 42 percent of American households. Super Bowl advertising spots have often become the single most important game plan for launching new products and increasing consumer sales.
During Super Bowl XVIII, Apple Computer ran a futuristic "1984" commercial, which introduced probably their most successful product, the Macintosh computer. This advertisement had a limited run and cost $500,000 to produce, but the phenomenal press coverage and nationwide audience set Apple up in the minds of the American public as a challenger to IBM.
This year, soft drinks, beer, automobiles and fast-food marketers will be scrambling for the advertising limelight.
Anheuser-Busch is planning on spending $5 million for 11 of NBC's 54 commercial units, making Bud the largest Super Bowl sponsor for the second consecutive year. This Bud buy-out was not light - Bud became the exclusive beer sponsor for the game.
Coca-Cola will air a $1 million, 45-second Diet Coke commercial in 3-D during the halftime show - the first ever on national television. Twenty million pairs of 3-D glasses have already been distributed through local supermarkets.
As for their archrivals, Pepsi-Cola's "Diet Pepsi Talent Challenge" will be a pregame talent show featuring NFL players competing as singers, comedians, dancers and musicians. Sort of a "Star Search" for jocks.
Auto producers also will tout their latest models in grand style. During the pregame show, General Motors' will feature Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods and his mom doing the famous "Ickey Shuffle."
Without a doubt, however, the big winner of this Super Bowl will be the host city of Miami. Although they are guaranteed a massive influx of tourists, they're still not taking any chances. "Miami Nice, Not Vice" is the slogan down in Florida these days, where cab drivers are taking crash courses in etiquette and genteel behavior.
As host cities have experienced in the past, Miami will greet more than 80,000 visitors, who will spend more than $100 million on hotels, meals and, of course, the game itself. For Miami, the trickle-down theory will affect a wide array of entrepreneurs profiting from Super Bowl-related activities and paraphernalia.
If the hometown boys make good, the cities of Super Bowl champs also reap economic rewards. In Cincinnati, everyone has caught "Bengals Fever," which quickly has been transformed into a successful commodity for area department stores. Jerry Gafford, vice president of corporate affairs for Lazarus Department Stores, comments that the football team's win has prompted "an obsession within the Cincinnati community for products associated with the Bengels."
Department stores in both Cincinnati and San Francisco are banking on the fanaticism of loyalists. Lazarus has devoted an entire department to selling only Bengal paraphernalia, from "Who dey" towels to orange tiger-striped gloves and ear muffs. Also, Macy's Department Store in San Francisco has reported an increase in sales of 49ers sports attire.
Aside from the merchandise being sold by stores, stadiums and street vendors, big money is always made from the name or insignia of the winning team. NFL Properties in New York handles the licensing of all 28 football teams' insignias to retailers. Rusty Martin, director of club relations at NFL Properties, explained, even though only one team wins the championship, "benefits are shared equally by all 28 teams."
However, Martin mentioned that a big win always helps the licensing of a team's insignia, and that's worth a lot in terms of added publicity. The Chicago Bears have been the most sought after team for licensing since their Super Bowl victory in 1984.
Reader questions will be answered and may appear in this column, when mailed to Gary S. Meyers at 20 West Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60610.