Super Bowl time. We won’t lie, despite the negativity around the NFL, the violence of the sport and the vast and offensive consumerism that partners with the National Football League, there’s a subset of the Postconsumers team that still looks forward to their yearly get-together to watch “the big game.” And while they do feel a bit of chagrin for indulging in this activity, they can’t lie that they get wrapped up in the excitement of the game. If this describes you, we certainly don’t want to take away from your enjoyment of America’s biggest day in sports. But we do want you to think about the humongous marketing machine that cranks away behind the Super Bowl and what you can do to try to enjoy the game and the comradery but not participate in the entrenched consumerism of the day.

The Obvious: The Cost of a Super Bowl Commercial Could Fund a School

The average cost of a thirty second commercial spot for the 2015 Super Bowl was $4.5 million dollars. Yes, you read that right. If you consider that New Jersey, which spends the most per student per school, spends an average of $17,000 per student, that could fund a school for over 250 students. Why does a commercial during the Super Bowl cost so much? Because the advertisers know how many people will see the commercial. Since the commercials during the Super Bowl have become such an “event” all on their own, between their original airing, their re-shows on morning news programs the next day and online views via YouTube and other video sites, the number of people who see the commercial is far more than the 108 million or so who watch the game. In fact, some advertising companies consider the cost of a Super Bowl ad to be a bargain. Ouch. And the truth is that as a nation we love these commercials. In some polling, up to 50% of everybody who watches the Super Bowl is watching because of the commercials.

What Can You Do? It’s not realistic for us to tell you not to watch the Super Bowl, and based on the polling we quoted above it’s even less realistic for us to tell you to not watch the commercials. What we’d suggest you do instead is organize an effort to rally your favorite brands who advertised during the Super Bowl to donate an equal amount to charitable causes. If they can afford upwards of four million to buy a thirty second commercial, then they can find it in them to match that cost with a charitable donation. And they won’t do it unless you organize people to encourage them. If there’s one thing public corporations hate, it’s public shaming!

And Of Course, There’s The Super Bowl Merchandise Itself

Most people already know that before NFL playoff games are played for big games like divisional championships, league championships and, of course, the Super Bowl, full sets of merchandise are made with both teams’ names on them so that they can be put on sale immediately following the game. So, in the case of the Super Bowl, that means that millions of t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and other gear are made for each team before the game is even played.  The good news is that the loser’s shirts aren’t just trashed. They’re sent to developing nations and given to children in need of clothing. But we can likely all agree that it’s a ridiculous waste of energy, materials and carbon footprint just so the champions can wear their shirts the day of.

There’s also simply the “stuff” element associated with buying the winning team’s gear each Super Bowl. We’re not going to get between you and your fandom, though. We just want you to think about whether you’re buying a Super Bowl t-shirt because you’ll use and wear it or because a marketing campaign has leveraged your joy to convince you that joy = stuff.

What Can You Do? Again, we’re not going to tell you not to buy merchandise. We know that the relationship between an individual and their favorite team can be deeply personal. But think about how much you really need (or don’t need) to buy. Do you really need the full suite of gear, or is a sweatshirt or hat enough to remember the big day?

Stores That Have Nothing to Do With the Super Bowl … Having Super Bowl Specials

We can likely admit that it makes sense for a pizza delivery service or a beer distributor to offer a Super Bowl related special or discount. We might even be able to stretch that to say that we could understand a Super Bowl related sale from a store that specializes in sports gear. But does a major department store need a Super Bowl sale? Does a clothing store? Does a book store? The answer is obviously no. But we’ve seen at least one of each of these types of stores offering Super Bowl related discounts and sales. Why? Because that’s smart marketing. It’s not unlike the tactic of turning Labor Day or Memorial Day into a shopping event. Those holidays have nothing to do with shopping. But by creating a history and expectation of deep discounts during those times, the marketing machine has created structured shopping. The same thing happens each year with the Super Bowl.

What Can You Do? Just because it’s on sale, it doesn’t mean that you have to purchase it. Our advice for beating this type of Super Bowl marketing is the same that we would give for any type of manufactured retail event. If there is something that you truly need and have been holding out for, absolutely leverage a discount offered on Super Bowl weekend. But don’t buy things just because they are on sale. This will just lead to more and more “stuff” that you ultimately don’t need (and may find that you don’t even want, not to mention the stress and addiction).

Have a different idea on how you can enjoy the Super Bowl without feeding the consumer machine? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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Photo Credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr