The Super Bowl’s New Money
February 15, 2016
University of North Carolina Wilmington
The Super Bowl is a favorite American pastime. Akin to asking someone if they will watch the event is equivalent to ensuring someone has a warm home in which to share the holidays.
In general, 1/3 of America watches the football-sporting event every year. Super Bowl 50, garnered 114 million viewers. For comparison, 126 million viewers turned out for the 2012 presidential election.
I consider the Super Bowl as a type of ‘State of the Union.” The commercials, halftime show, network’s computer graphics depict a good portion of America’s consciousness at that moment. It reflects what Americans’ value, their hopes and their fears.
This snapshot in time and heightened public attention (a whopping 4+ hours) is of great value and symbolizes common ground. Consider a 30 sec commercial slot during the 1st Super Bowl in 1967 sold for $298,045 (in 2015 US dollars) whereas, the same time allotment last week sold $5M.
Hence, BudLight ran a commercial referencing America’s polarized Congress to begin a discussion about the things America agrees on: comedians, raunchy innuendoes (big ‘cauc’-us, hehe!), and of course cheap beer. (BudLight’s affiliated beer “family” Budweiser is known for the ever-classic Super Bowl commercial Bud-Weis-Er frogs).
This year’s Super Bowl took place in San Francisco.
The event drew out less affluent locals protesting against the reduced accessibility of the city for living, working and enjoyment caused by new concentrations of wealth in the tech industry. The conditions prevail throughout the Bay Area, including San Jose, home of the “Silicon Valley.” (I write a bit about this and some of the complexities it surfaces for underlying value conflicts in debates over disaster losses in the US.)
In an era of heightened political concern over income inequality, PayPal’s Super Bowl commercial (above) is brilliant if not also a bit ironic. PayPal, headquartered in San Jose, aired a 45 second ad cleverly spinning unique concepts of ‘Old Money’ and ‘New Money.’
Old Money, the ad suggests, is white, plump, aging men or rather, the founding leaders of the United States of America. Old Money is stock markets, banks, and Jetsons era television.
New Money, on the other hand, is ethnically, generationally and professionally diverse. New Money is alternative energy, technology, and athleticism.
Old Money and New Money are both ideas of concentrated wealth. By using the idiom, PayPal suggests money has the opportunity to shift hands but not necessarily distribute more equitably.
A WSJ article about the ad reveals that PayPal recently split from Ebay and their motive is to encourage broader participation in their service. Whether use of the service comes from old American white men or young Chinese entrepreneurial women, PayPal skims a percentage for providing their service.
According to PayPal’s ad, then, New Money is not about who has money (though clearly PayPal has quite a bit), but who oversees markets. That is, New Money makes the rules; it has political power. This is not so different from Old Money.
And so, similar to President Obama’s claim during his final State of the Union, “The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period,” The Super Bowl provides an opportunity for power to captivate: on the gridiron, in cities, over markets, and in our living rooms.