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Exploring the Business, Cultural Implications of Super Bowl XLVII


Watch Dennis Deninger’s TV interview about SPM 199 on THE HOUR.
As Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers approaches February 3 in New Orleans, several students in the Falk College's Department of Sport Management will see the event in a new light. More than 100 students are enrolled SPM 199—The Super Bowl and Society, which offers a semester-long exploration of the evolution and strategic brilliance that has transformed a football game into a social phenomenon with international audiences, business impact, and cultural implications.

The course is taught by Dennis Deninger, sport management professor of practice and director of the Newhouse sports communications graduate program, whose experience includes three Emmy Awards as a producer working at ESPN for 25+ years. Earlier this year, Deninger authored "Sports on Television: The How and Why Behind What You See," which is recommended reading for the course.

Watch an SU News video about SPM 199.
The class is rich in historical perspective on the Super Bowl’s creation and growth, citing original research and highlights of recently conducted exclusive interviews with broadcast executives, including those from Super Bowl I. Some not-so-well known facts about that first Super Bowl students have heard include:
  1. Super Bowl I in January of 1967 did not sell out….the L.A. Coliseum was about 30 percent empty.
  2. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle came out onto the field before the game started to realize CBS' cameras would see too many empty seats. So he instructed that announcements be made to move fans who bought the $6 tickets into more favorable locations.
  3. RAFL Founder Lamar Hunt came up with the title "Super Bowl" after seeing his children play with a "Super Ball." Commissioner Rozelle didn't like the title, "Super Bowl," so the first two Super Bowls were officially called the "AFL/NFL World Championship Game." But for fans and the media, the game was always The Super Bowl from the very beginning.
  4. Super Bowl I was aired live on both CBS and NBC. The second half kickoff came while NBC was still in commercial. So after the network complained, the referee actually allowed a "do-over," and they kicked off again. Luckily the first kick resulted in a touchback, and there had been no run back.

For Deninger, the best part of the course so far has been opening students' eyes to how much more than a game this annual event has become. "It has been the most-watched television show in America each year for more than a decade, and because of its social, cultural, economic and political impact, Super Bowl Sunday has become as much a national holiday as any other official holiday on our calendar," says Deninger.

On Tuesday February 5, two days after Super Bowl XLVII, the class will do an analysis of the game telecast, including reaction and critique of the CBS television production, advertising and sponsorships. The class the week leading up to the Super Bowl will focus on how to critically watch the Super Bowl and give students insight as to how the game will be directed and produced, the story lines and how these may be treated, and address how networks other than CBS use the Super Bowl as a vehicle to build their audiences.