The Super Bowl and Social Media

There arguably is no greater testament to the concept of audience engagement than the Super Bowl. The 50th edition of the National Football League’s championship game was the third most watched broadcast in U.S. television history, averaging 111.9 million TV viewers (Pallotta & Stelte, para. 2). According to The Wall Street Journal, a 30-second spot cost more than $4.5 million (Perlberg, para. 2).

Arguably no player epitomized the convergence of sports, media and marketing more than Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. On January 27, Newton caused a social media firestorm on race in sports when he told reporters,  “I’ve said this since day one. I’m an African American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to (‘I’m an African American quarterback that may scare some people.'”).”

Then Newton created another social media buzz a few days later when he wore a pair of $800 zebra-striped Versace pants:

Fashion Cam Newton
FILE – In this Jan. 31, 2016 file photo, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton gets off the plane at the Mineta San Jose International Airport in San Jose, Calif. The Panthers play the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2015, in Super Bowl 50. Newton was snapped Sunday in the zebra stripe, gold swirl rocker pants immediately setting social media and TV talking heads into a frenzy. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Newton’s wardrobe selection particularly became popular on Twitter, where users posted and retweeted comments:

Cam Newton's pants.png
(COURTESY: Twitter)

And finally, Newton became the lightning rod for social media criticism when he left a media conference after the Panthers’ 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos.

SOURCE: YouTube)

An event like the Super Bowl has become a place for marketers to see how people engage with social during the game. Known as the “second screen experience,” the social media research company Localytics showed that an average of 3.21 app launches per phone during the Super Bowl (O’Connell, para. 6). Of particular note is that music and entertainment apps were opened the most, as major musical acts are the halftime attractions.

For marketers, the Super Bowl should present a golden opportunity to reach audiences. Media retention is imperative in cultivating an audience, so finding ways to keep in touch with users is key. And what other time to reach an engaged audience than the Super Bowl?


“Cam Newton: ‘I’m an African American quarterback that may scare some people.'” (2016, January 27). The Guardian.  Retrieved February 8, 2016, from

O’Connell, C. (2016, Feb. 9). “Social apps show most engagement during Super Bowl 50.” Localystics. Retrieved February 9, 2016, from

Perlberg, S. (2015, Jan. 28). “Super Bowl spending since 2000: The big game ad-tracker.” Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from

Pallotta, F. & Stelte, B. (2016, Feb. 8). “Super Bowl 50 audience is third largest in TV history.” CNN. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from

Sonny Black (2016, Feb. 8). “Cam Newton walks out of post game interview (video) Super Bowl 2016.” YouTube . Retrieved Feb. 8, 2016, from


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