By Brian Freeland, Ed.D.
Dean, School of Health Sciences
and James T. Reese Jr., Ed.D.
Program Director and Associate Professor, Sports Management
Super Bowl LV is finally here, and it feels somewhat different than the games held in past years. The most obvious reason is that our nation has been dealing with a global pandemic for approximately a year, which has made the National Football League (NFL) season to be one of strangest seasons in its 101-year history.
Start a sports management degree at American Public University.
The NFL Found a Way to Keep Functioning despite COVID-19
Although many sports leaders, media members, public health experts and sports fans around the nation did not believe the NFL would be able to complete a full season during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL found a way to complete the regular season and playoffs with little interruption. Despite various NFL players and coaches testing positive for COVID-19, the NFL was able to reschedule several games stayed on schedule in order to complete the season on time. In fact, the NFL created their own strategy by not following the “bubble” method to limit travel like the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Hockey League (NHL) previously did.
The NFL Will Only Permit a Limited Number of Fans in the Stadium during Super Bowl LV
One of the biggest differences with the NFL’s 101st season compared to previous seasons is the limitation of fans at the stadiums. Many teams did not allow any of their fans to attend games, while others allowed a limited number of fans to enter their stadiums on game day. In addition, the lack of fan noise combined with none of the typical scanning of the crowds from television cameras created a unique experience for viewers.
Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay is the host of Super Bowl LV, and the stadium can hold close to 66,000 fans. However, the NFL and Raymond James Stadium will be at approximately 1/3 of capacity during Super Bowl LV. About 14,500 tickets were sold to the public, and 7,500 tickets were donated to healthcare workers in the Tampa and Central Florida area.
Super Bowl LV Will Be Tom Brady’s First Game with the Buccaneers
Another noticeable difference in Super Bowl LV is Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who is in his 20th season. Brady is obviously not new to the Super Bowl, as this will be his 10th appearance in the big game.
However, the first nine Super Bowl appearances were with the New England Patriots. Seeing Brady lead the Buccaneers after spending 19 seasons with the Patriots makes this NFL season feel different.
Super Bowl LV Will Be Held at the Home Stadium for One of the Teams
This will also be the first Super Bowl ever where the stadium is the home stadium for one of the participants. Tampa Bay will experience a home field advantage no other NFL team has experienced.
Budweiser Has Shifted Its Funds Away from Ads and toward COVID-19 Relief
Lastly, this Super Bowl feels different because there will be no Budweiser advertisements during the televised event. From the Clydesdale horses to Bud Bowl and talking frogs, Budweiser is known for some of the most creative and memorable Super Bowl commercials over the years.
Nevertheless, this season is unusual. After 37 consecutive years of Super Bowl advertisements, Budweiser has decided to forgo advertising during the Super Bowl LV telecast.
Instead, Budweiser has announced that they will donate their marketing dollars toward COVID-19 relief and promoting the COVID-19 vaccine. Budweiser recognizes the value associated with using their platform to help with COVID-19 relief.
The announcement that Budweiser will not have a commercial spot during Super Bowl LV may actually prove to be a stronger marketing tactic than purchasing a $4.5-million-dollar, 30-second segment. As a result of the announcement, Budweiser has generated a lot of press and public attention.
More People Will Watch from Home and Use Second Screens to Connect with Friends and Family
Budweiser also recognizes this Super Bowl will be viewed differently than any other Super Bowl in history. Social distancing will generate fewer gatherings among friends and family during this year’s event, and there will be smaller crowds at bars and restaurants.
Television viewership of Super Bowl LV is expected to increase, with more people viewing the game from their own homes. Also, more people will be using their mobile devices during the game to connect with their friends and family through texts and social media websites.
The second-screen sports generation is already growing. Many fans now watch sports on their television sets, but they also have a second screen (smartphone or tablet) to view statistics and engage with fellow fans, friends, and family about the game.
Budweiser recognizes the power of digital presence, and it will be implementing digital marketing strategies to engage consumers before, during, and after Super Bowl LV. Part of that marketing effort will include dedicating four social media war rooms designed to engage with consumers on social media.
Digital Marketing Strategies and Future Sports Events
Digital marketing strategies continue to gain traction in sports-related marketing as fans have altered their viewing habits. In addition to Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have made similar announcements that they will not purchase commercial spots for their brands during the Super Bowl. This change in advertising could be a trend for future major sporting events — such as the upcoming Daytona 500 on February 14 and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March — as businesses adapt their marketing strategy to the digital age.
About the Authors
Dr. Brian Freeland is the Dean of the School of Health Sciences at American Public University. He holds a B.S. in Health and Physical Education from Radford University, an M.S.S. in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy and an Ed.D. in Sports Management and Leadership from Northcentral University. Brian has over 20 years of experience coaching youth and high school basketball players.
Dr. Jim Reese is an Associate Professor and Program Director for the undergraduate and graduate sports management programs at American Public University, and a former ticket administrator with the Denver Broncos. He holds an M.S. in Sport Management from Georgia Southern University and an Ed.D. in Physical Education: Sport Administration from the University of Northern Colorado.