The Impact of the Super Bowl on American Culture

The Super Bowl has gone from being more than just an NFL championship game and has evolved into a cultural phenomenon drawing in over 100 million viewers every year. According to Sports Media Watch, 111.3 million people viewed the 2017 Super Bowl, and 103.39 million people watched in 2018.

Seton Hall Associate Sports Management professor Laurence McCarthy said the Super Bowl is a “nonreligious holiday” and football is important in terms of American culture. “It’s a social event as much as anything else and so people get together,” McCarthy said.

Sophomore accounting major James Carpenter said that the Super Bowl is now ingrained in American culture and has become a social event for diehards and casual fans of the game.

“Nowadays everyone watches the Super Bowl. You go to a bar, you eat the food, you watch the commercials if you’re not into football,” Carpenter said. “You just have a good time with your family.”

Sophomore sports management and marketing major Winir Louis also finds that the Super Bowl can be an event for everyone regardless if you follow the NFL. “If you think about it, football is really only an American sport so it’s kind of the perfect time to be American and hang out with all of your friends, order pizza or wings and things of that nature and just being able to just come together,” Louis said.

According to Nielson, retailers have cashed in America’s fascination with this game as food and beverage companies have seen a massive spike in sales leading up to the event. During the 2017 Super Bowl, Americans spent $80 million on chicken wings, $979 million on soft drinks and $1.3 billion on beer.

“You would have seen over the last couple of weeks the number of pizza ads, the number of fried chicken ads, the number of snack food ads [in the market]. That industry obviously gets a huge boost obviously this [past] weekend,” McCarthy said.

In addition to food the food industry’s sales spike, in 2018 sports economist Victor A. Matheson reported that the Super Bowl can generate anywhere from $30 million to $130 million for the host city.

McCarthy said the Super Bowl is an economic bolster for the city hosting the game, “but then the circus leaves town this morning so it has a short-term economic boost into the Atlanta economy.”

The event has been elevated into a multi-million dollar revenue generator but its popularity can also be tied to the timing of the event. “We’ve gotten over the holidays, we’re now looking towards the spring and so we have this sort of major lull and here we have [the] biggest sports event of the year and you have 100 million or 111 million people watching it every year,” McCarthy said.

Even with 100 million-plus viewers tuning into the game in past years, 2019’s match-up between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams scored a 44.9 rating in metered market results which is a 5 percent decrease from 2018.

McCarthy said the decrease in ratings is surprising “given that Los Angeles is the second largest market in the country, but the problem is that there’s so much going on in Los Angeles anyway.” He notes that the lower ratings “could be a residual of the Colin Kaepernick protest.”

The Rams are one of the two NFL teams in Los Angeles alongside the Chargers “so they’re not a galvanizing force in that market like the Giants might be here in this particular [New York] market,” McCarthy said.

According to McCarthy the Super Bowl “the climax of the football season.” The game is heavily promoted by the league and is a revenue-driver for the host city. An abundance of hype surrounds the event in the weeks leading up to the game, but for sophomore sport management major Robert Musantry, watching the Super Bowl with his fraternity was just fine.

“You have a good gathering, and there’s good commercials so it’s not always about the football game.”

Andrea Keppler can be reached at or on Twitter @keppler_andrea.