Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Big game trends, predictions from Sport Management’s Zach Binkley

Big game trends, predictions from Sport Management’s Zach Binkley

The Super Bowl is adapting to consumer drives and tech advancements, says Professor Zach Binkley.

Football teams and the way that consumers experience the Super Bowl are evolving, says Zach Binkley of Quinlan’s Sport Management program.

Below, we talk with Binkley about the four biggest trends impacting the big game and its fans this year.

1. Sports tech and the Super Bowl

With the emergence of wearable technology and real-time data analysis of performances, sports teams can learn more about their players than ever before, say Binkley. Players cannot wear technology during this year’s Super Bowl, but they can train with it.

“Artificial intelligence has taken us to a new level, where coaches and players can’t see details with their own eyes, but with AI, they can learn from the performance. Players can own their data and learn from it,” he says.

And to read this data, sports teams have hired data analysts to be on the sidelines with them and give advice. But not all teams are buying into the idea of sports data, which could have a negative effect on their performance.

“Some organizations take a non-data approach, and I’m not sure if that’s advantageous for their teams, because the good teams are moving the tech direction,” says Binkley 

There may be no direct correlation between technology use and getting to the Super Bowl, says Binkley, but most teams who perform well are advancing their tech approach.

“ESPN rated every team in every sports organization on how they’re using data, and the top 20 teams are doing pretty well,” he explains.

2. Super Bowl ad trends

The number of people watching the Super Bowl and its ads has been dropping in large part due to social media, says Binkley. Last year was the first time that Super Bowl viewership dropped below 100 million since 2009.  

“Now you can see the ads – as well as the game highlights – on Twitter the next day,” says Binkley. “The game isn’t as big of a platform as it used to be, but even so, the average cost of a Super Bowl ad continues to go up.”

Binkley does see two bright spots for advertising, starting with exclusive content.

In 2019, the movie trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker debuted during ESPN’s Monday Night Football matchup between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The movie was distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Disney co-owns ESPN.

“In other words, the corporation aired its own content during the game and fans like me tuned in at halftime to watch the trailer,” said Binkley. “Other companies probably had some ad spaces before and after the trailer that made money.”

Another opportunity is ads that are mission-based.

“The biggest thing these companies can do is use Super Bowl ads to share what they stand for as a company,” says Binkley. “While the Dove ads on real beauty and real strength don’t mean I’ll go buy Dove, maybe I walk away from the game more connected to Dove than before. And companies going through difficult times can use this platform to reach millions of people, just as Uber did last year when it pushed a statement on their commitment to consumers.” 

3. Streaming sports

“Streaming services have changed the landscape of sports consumerism and that impacts the Super Bowl,” Binkley says.

Sports could not survive solely on cable, he adds. For example, with ESPN’s partnership with Disney and Hulu, more sports fans are watching games through the ESPN app. Platforms like Twitter are also evolving to accommodate sports fans by allowing them to stream games on their site.

4. Who plays impacts viewership

This year’s game faces more challenges than just social media and streaming. Binkley says that the two teams in the Super Bowl – the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs – don’t have as large of a fan base as other teams, which might depress viewership 

Having a West Coast team does not help, either.

“West Coast teams have fewer viewers than East Coast teams because of the time zone – the game is on too early on the West Coast,” says Binkley. “But maybe the Chief’s star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, will help viewership. It’ll be interesting to see if team-based viewership drops.”

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