Why the Super Bowl means millions to everyone except Katy Perry

Celebrity, Business, Money

Super Bowl XLIX is coming up Sunday Feb. 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Super Bowl is not only the year’s most important game for football; it’s a huge cultural event and must-see TV that broke records last year, drawing 111.5 million viewers. There’s an enormous amount of money surrounding it. But what do the contracts actually say, who’s paying whom, and who’s making what?

The players

The NFL pays players who take part in the post-season, and for every playoff game a team plays in, its players get a bonus. Members of last year’s Super Bowl winners, the Seattle Seahawks, each got a bonus of $92,000. Members of the losing team, the Denver Broncos, each walked away with $46,000.

This is a nice bonus, but it might feel small to players who are used to multi-million dollar contracts.

The coach

Coaches may or may not get bonuses; it depends on their contracts. It was reported that last year, Broncos coach John Fox would have earned an extra $1 had his team won. But don’t feel too bad; while Fox just announced that he’s leaving the Broncos, his reported $5.5 million salary may follow him wherever he goes.

Owners and management

The team’s manager and owners benefit from a team being in the Super Bowl even if they don’t receive direct compensation. In addition to the prestige of having won, there are very real benefits, like being able to charge higher ticket prices during the following season, sell more merchandise and attract higher-caliber paying sponsors.

The hosting city

In theory, the city hosting the Super Bowl should make a lot of money due to the influx of visitors who come to see the big game. In reality, hosting the Super Bowl is not cheap, and cities that make bids to host have to meet the NFL’s demands.

The league chooses the hosting city a few years in advance, basing the selection on a number of factors including weather and capacity to host.

Last year, a 154-page document outlining the league’s requirements was leaked, and it spells out demands from the reasonable — the stadium must be domed if the city’s average temperature is below 50 degrees, for example — to the somewhat ridiculous, like that the NFL may install its own ATMs and cover up other ATMs.

Other requirements include the following: There must be 35,000 free parking spots for gameday. The NFL gets all revenue from ticket sales, and those sales must be exempt from local and state taxes. And in case there’s bad weather, the NFL has priority for ice and snow removal unless resources are needed for public safety.

There may still be room for negotiation, but it’s clear that a city wanting to host has to be prepared to play by the NFL’s rules. Not to mention the crime and violence that tends to accompany large sporting events.

TV broadcasters, advertisers and sponsors

In late 2011, the NFL signed a nine-year media rights agreement that means up to $3.2 billion per year for the NFL, splitting broadcasting rights between NBC, CBS and Fox for the year. The Super Bowl broadcasting rights are divided evenly. Fox broadcast the game last year, NBC will broadcast this year and CBS next year.

Broadcasters are understandably desperate for the opportunity to air an event that nearly one 1 in 3 Americans watches. Last year, Fox sold ad space for an average of $4 million per 30-second spot. NBC started selling space for this year’s game before last year’s game even started.

While the broadcasters pay for the privilege of airing the game, they also take on some of the liability. The Federal Communications Commission wanted to fine CBS $550,000 over Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” heard around the world, a clothing mishap which momentarily revealed her breast during the halftime show. The matter was only settled in 2012, when the Supreme Court — yes, the nipple slip went all the way to the Supreme Court — declined to review a lower court’s decision.

Halftime performers

Only slightly less important than the ads is the halftime show. Playing the Super Bowl halftime show is a big deal and is an honor reserved for A-list stars only. This year, Katy Perry will perform, and Lenny Kravitz will appear as her special guest. So what will Perry and Kravitz make?


The gig is so prestigious that playing for free is the typical arrangement. But in a twist, last fall The Wall Street Journal reported that the NFL requested payment from its short list of performers in order to play the halftime show. The “pay to play” request was not greeted warmly, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The performers’ contracts are confidential, so it’s unknown what deal the performers struck with the league. 

WINNER: The league

If it’s not clear by now, the NFL, with ticket sales, broadcasting rights, merchandising and more, is the real winner of the Super Bowl, no matter which team takes home the trophy.

Photo: Anton Oparin / Shutterstock.com