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Big League Business Influence: The Super Bowl versus the Super PAC

by Doug Laney  |  February 6, 2012  |  1 Comment

Yesterday during the on-air buildup to the Super Bowl a reporter mentioned that over one billion people were expected to watch this year’s big game. It occurred to me how few of these individuals, including some Americans, fully understand what the Super Bowl really means.  The next news story was about Super PACs (a new form of political action committee), and it occurred to me how, despite Stephen Colbert’s best efforts, even fewer people understand what a Super PAC is. So for both fun and education I created a little side-by-side comparison of the Super Bowl (and American football) versus a Super PAC (and the American elections).

Super Bowl Super PAC
Enabled by antitrust exemption under the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 Enabled by expenditure exception under the revised Federal Election laws of 2010
Enables players to run for touchdowns Enables candidates to run for office
Money comes from citizens and businesses Money comes from citizens and businesses
Funds players’ lifestyles Funds candidates’ campaigns…and lifestyles
Pays for hysterical ads Pays for histrionic ads
Helps players get enshrined in Hall of Fame Helps a candidate get ensconced in Oval Office
Players communicate with fans through the media Candidates communicate with fund through the media
Fans can bestow with unlimited fame Fans can bestow with unlimited funding
As a result of their fame, many individual players become corporations As a result of the courts, laws don’t discriminate between individuals and corporations
Foreign teams not allowed to participate in US football Foreign businesses allowed to participate in US elections
Initial goal is winning a series of playoff games in multiple cities; ultimate goal is winning the national championship Initial goal is winning multiple primary elections in multiple states; ultimate goal is winning the general election
Offense wins games; defense wins championships Being offensive wins primaries; being on the defensive loses general elections
Halftimes are spectacular Debates are spectacles
Required to disclose injuries Required to disclose donors
Trash-talking Trash-talking
Players wear eye black Candidates get black-eyes
Players leave it all on the field for their teammates and fans Candidates leave a little left over for themselves
Coaches stand on the sidelines and call plays; quarterbacks audible Fund manager stands on the sidelines and call plays; candidates are audible
Players make a bit more money each playoff game they win Candidates raise a lot more money each primary election they win
Sports networks are the real winners News networks are the real winners


Ultimately the larger story for both the Super Bowl and Super PACs is about corporate influence. Super Bowl ads may be expensive, but the cost per second per viewer is on par with any other TV show. Moreover, due to social media these Super Bowl ads often take on a life in the Twittersphere, on YouTube and in Facebook after (and even before) they air, thereby enabling a business to reach a much larger audience than those viewing the ad when it aired. Many businesses also use the power of social media to actively engage potential customers by drawing them to their website or Facebook page. Think: Danica Patrick. Similarly, US elections are expensive, and reaching voters today also requires a social multichannel approach. Super PACs now provide the unbounded means for individuals and corporations from anywhere on the planet to influence US elections. So if your business wants to and has the financial means to reach a large swath of both consumers and voters, the Super Bowl and the Super PAC have got you covered.

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Tags: pac  politics  super-bowl  superbowl  superpac  

Doug Laney
VP and Distinguished Analyst, Data & Analytics Strategy
12 years at Gartner
30 years in IT industry

Doug Laney is a research vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner. He advises clients on data and analytics strategy, information innovation, and infonomics (measuring, managing and monetizing information as an actual corporate asset). Follow Doug on Twitter @Doug_Laney...Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Big League Business Influence: The Super Bowl versus the Super PAC


  1. nice post… this article is informative.. now I know what does Super Bowl means… Thanks!



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