Enduring Popularity Drives Super Bowl Research

by Denis Storey
February 9, 2024 at 10:23 AM UTC

Super Bowl Sunday drives significant academic research into issue such as increased alcohol consumption and gambling addiction concerns.

Clinical relevance: Super Bowl Sunday drives significant academic research into issues such as increased alcohol consumption and gambling addiction concerns.

  • The record-breaking cost of a 30-second ad spot reaching $7 million underscores the economic significance of the big game.
  • The influence of special events like the Super Bowl on behaviors such as drinking and parenting is evident, with studies showing increased alcohol consumption during the game linked to higher odds of aggressive discipline towards children.
  • The rise of online sports betting has led to concerns about a surge in gambling addiction.

Super Bowl Sunday is as close to “must-see TV” as we have anymore.

Analysts expect more than 115 million people to tune in to watch the NFL championship match-up between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 11. That number could easily swell past that this year, though, since the most popular pop star on the planet, Taylor Swift, might be there. That means an entirely new audience of younger, decidedly more female viewership numbers.

As a result, the cost of a 30-second ad spot hit a record $7 million this year.

It should come as no surprise, then, that given its economic and pop culture significance, the Super Bowl should drive so much academic research.

So, instead of missing out, we thought we’d share some interesting Super Bowl studies that we’ve come across.

The “Taylor Swift Affect”

According to the Seton Hall Sports Poll, administered by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business, 72 percent of Americans say they’ll tune in to the big game. That number is up six points from last year.

But that isn’t the most interesting bit. The surveyors expect Swift to play a part, whether she’s there or not. More than 21 percent of Americans said she was why they would tune in to the game. 

“From a marketing perspective, the NFL and its advertisers couldn’t do any better,” Seton Hall University Marketing Professor Daniel Ladik, chief methodologist for the poll, explained. “The viewership for this game is on a seemingly inexorable march toward more viewers, and this year Taylor Swift may be playing the role of drum major – at least for 18-34-year-olds, a market that almost everyone covets.”

Online Betting Drives Addiction

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision changed the game on sports betting. But you wouldn’t know it was such a recent development to look at the proliferation of ad spots, apps, and paid sponsorships. Online gambling became the norm in record time, with 38 states now allowing their residents to bet on games online.

Naturally, betting has skyrocketed, and the American Gaming Association expects 68 million American adults to wager more than $23 billion on this year’s rematch of Super Bowl 54. That’s a 35% increase over last year.

And while that might be great economic news, many worry that it also means a corresponding jump in gambling addicts.

“We’ve seen a big increase in people reaching out for help with sports betting,” certified gambling counselor Elizabeth Thielen told a Chicago ABC affiliate. “Now we’re upwards of 40 percent of our practice is sports bettors.”

That’s not entirely out of line with official industry estimates: The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates the risk of gambling addiction in the general population grew by 30 percent over the last three years.

Drinking, Parenting, and the Super Bowl

The social aspect of the Super Bowl remains a huge part of the weekend. One Poll, working with grill maker Char Broil. The pollster spoke with 2,000 adults who watch the game every year. And 40 percent of them said they were “attending or hosting a Super Bowl party.”

Naturally, special occasions – like Super Bowl parties – lead to more drinking. One study showed that a holiday or other social event can add another four drinks a week for men and three drinks a week for women.

However, one researcher wondered how that special occasion drinking influences parenting. And the results were, well, sobering.

“Drinking alcohol during the Super Bowl was related to a 2.5 times higher odds of using aggressive discipline. However, drinking on Valentine’s Day was related to lower odds of using aggressive discipline,” lead author Bridget Freisthler, professor of social work, The Ohio State University, wrote about the findings. “So special-event drinking did affect parenting behavior – but in different ways depending on the event.”

Freisthler and her team found that violent sports, such as American football, cause parents to mimic the on-screen aggressiveness.

“When children appear disruptive or are playing in the same room, dads and moms may be quicker to yell instead of redirecting the behavior without resorting to aggression,” she explained.

But on more subdued special occasions, like Valentine’s Day, that same aggressive behavior isn’t there.

“Drinking may be more likely to occur at a restaurant with a nice dinner that may or may not include children,” Freisthler concluded. “For couples who leave their children at home, the holiday provides respite from parenting and focuses attention on other activities.”

Further Reading

Response of Gambling Disorder to Ketamine

Problem Gambling and Alcohol Dependence Treatment

Drinking and Smoking in Patients With Chronic Conditions

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