Opinion: (Half) Time for a change?

Following on from one of the biggest media moments to hit the world’s sporting calendar, Sport Industry NextGen Leader Owen Laverty and Director of Fan Intelligence at Ear to the Ground, puts a question to the industry…

It’s hard to deny the impact of the Super Bowl Half Time Show: an annual, 13 minute long interval during which not a single pass is thrown or tackle is made, but which nonetheless reigns supreme as the unequivocal single biggest media moment in the US sporting calendar.

This time last year, I wrote a piece about how the power of music can help sporting properties grow their existing fan bases and the Super Bowl Half Time Show has always been the perfect example of this; a monumental cultural crossover of sport and music during which the NFL (not to mention Pepsi) can sit back and rub their hands in glee as viewing figures roll in and audience numbers swell way beyond the reach of any other game.

The NFL’s huge investment in the Half Time Show ultimately allows them to transcend traditional media channels, gaining coverage across fashion, music and gossip pages the world over, whilst earning them cultural kudos by giving new fans the opportunity to engage in a sport they otherwise wouldn’t have tuned in to. And, for the most part, this works. Since MJ’s 1993 performance the formula has remained relatively unchanged: superstar artist(s) puts on a huge show with amazing stage production and everyone goes home happy. It was revolutionary. It was game changing. And since then it has become a cultural phenomenon other properties can only dream of.

However, as we know from our years in the sports and music industries, relying on one single media moment can be problematic. When it pops, (excuse the pun) it’s electric. It’s remembered forever. But when it doesn’t, all that time, effort and money has been invested into something that is gone in the blink of an eye. There is no legacy. Our Fan Intelligence tracking of the long tail of fan conversation from 2013’s show-stopping Beyonce/Destiny’s Child combo, versus the lack of any fan chatter post 2014’s Bruno Mars/RHCP duo, gave a clear demonstration of this.

To be blunt, unfortunately for JT, initial media and fan sentiment around this year’s show has not been mind-bogglingly good, as confirmed by our 4,000 strong Fan Intelligence network. According to our research, Timberlake’s core fans were delighted to see him perform (so box ticked there) whilst the NFL has been positively accepted into the JT fan group. But the show doesn’t seem to have hit the mark within wider music and cultural circles, with the show only resonating with 22% of non-NFL or J.T. fans we spoke to…

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