RBR-TVBR analysis: Small market Super Bowl still a big deal


Nielsen ranks the Indianapolis market #25 in terms of size, and New Orleans comes in #51; over at Arbitron the numbers are #39 and #52. So will the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints prove to be a weak draw for this year’s Super Bowl? There may be a slight fluctuation in audience from other years, but overall, to answer that question in our opinion and in a word: Nope.

It probably would be a problem for the other three major sports. The finals in baseball, basketball and hockey can all run to seven games, requiring a major time commitment from fans, often on weekdays.

And none of the three can equal the fan base that pro football enjoys.

Further, we’d bet that out of the fans that pick one of the other sports as their favorite, most would list football as their #2. We suspect that a very healthy portion of baseball, basketball and hockey fans also watch pro football, an equation that does not necessarily work in any of the various reverse gears that are implicated.

That even goes for basketball and hockey, two sports that often share a building. Back in the day we worked at Washington’s now-defunct-and-leveled Capital Center, home to both basketball’s Wizards (Bullets back then) and hockey’s Capitals. We had a lot of loyal repeat customers among both season ticket holders and frequently-attending fans for both teams, and can testify that the two crowds were almost completely different – very little overlap. But both crowds would be in noticeable mourning after a particularly galling Washington Redskins loss. (Anybody remember Clint Longley?)

The Super Bowl, on the other hand, is a one-time event held on a day almost everybody has off, and has practically become a national holiday.

People hold parties.

Women, if they watch one sporting event in the year, watch this one. They don’t know the teams and they don’t care where they are from.

Many men who are not sports fans also make this their one sporting event for the year. They don’t know the teams either and they also don’t care where they are from.

As broadcasters well know, due to the magnitude of this event, they will literally make a federal case out of it if there is as much as a 9/16th of a second glitch during the half-time show.

Many watch for the commercials, for crying out loud, and take their snack and other breaks while the game is in progress.

The Super Bowl is basically immune to major damage due to lack of participation from a major market team.
Anyway, this Super Bowl has star power – the Colts’ Peyton Manning is one of the highest-profile athletes around right now. You can’t toss a brick in TV Commercial Land without hitting him. In fact, we’ve written about this in the past – we personally would not use Manning to advertise our own product, because of our tendency to notice Manning in the commercial, but not notice whatever it is he’s supposed to be selling.

In fact, one of our personal motivations for watching the Super Bowl this year is to root for Manning’s defeat – if only in hope that he doesn’t appear in even more commercials.

New Orleans may be one of the smaller major league markets, but the Saints have a great story line. It was the NFL home of Peyton Manning’s father Archie back when their level of futility was so great they were known as the Aints. They have become a rallying point for a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Plus they flirted with a perfect record until near the end of the season.

The Colts have a track record of winning, and the Saints make a perfect scruffy underdog challenger.

So for all these reasons, we believe that the TV crowd for this year’s Super Bowl should be just fine, thank you very much.