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A Little History About Super Bowl Half-Time Entertainment & The Commercials

Entertainment | February 5, 2018

JANUARY 15, 1967- Green Bay Packers' Elijah Pitts #22 runs with the ball during Super Bowl I against the Kansas City Chiefs at Memorial Coliseum on January 15, 1967 in Los Angeles, California. The Packers defeated t

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that the Super Bowl half-time entertainment garners just about as much attention as the game itself. Over the years they have become a Super Bowl tradition. Specifically, a tradition dating all the way back to America’s pop culture/counterculture era when the first Super Bowl was played.

The Super Bowl is the annual championship match between the top two teams in the NFL each season. The first Super Bowl ever played was on January 15, 1967, between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs. In the beginning, the Super Bowl was intended to attract sports enthusiasts and that it did!

Since the very first Super Bowl, referred to as Super Bowl I, the game (all but one) has been identified by Roman numerals. The only exception to this rule, to date, is Super Bowl 50, which was played in 2016. The title, Super Bowl 50, as it was billed, was to distinguish the fact that it was, indeed, the 50th game.

Early on, probably much of the first decade of the Super Bowl, half-time entertainment was typically comprised of college marching bands performing on the football field, playing music and making clever formations. Then in the 1980s, half-time performances began to evolve. A mixture of marching bands, drill teams and other similar performances were popular.  Nice, but a little low-key in comparison to what we expect now.

When the 90s rolled around, pop music began to take the stage for Super Bowl half-time shows. The thought was that by employing a “counterprogramming” strategy, the Super Bowl could potentially draw more viewers. Counterprogramming is a technique used by producers to lure viewers in, who may not normally be interested in their program, by incorporating something that appeals to everyone; hence, the half-time show.

The counterprogramming efforts paid off in a big way! Over the years, half-time shows have evolved and are all but unrecognizable in comparison to early shows. They are much more elaborate and some people watch the Super Bowl for just that reason.

These days, half-time shows typically include big-name performers, current music and elaborate stunts. Anything goes! (Well, almost anything..) I’m sure most, if not all of us, remember Janet Jackson’s “unfortunate wardrobe malfunction” in 2004. Interestingly, Justin Timberlake, her partner in crime, was the guy to watch this year for Super Bowl LII.

Extravagant half-time shows that include special stages, props, special effects and pyrotechnics have come to be expected. Some, more entertaining than others.

Katy Perry’s performance in Super Bowl XLIX (2015) was subpar, at best, compared to others.

I would be remiss not to mention that the Super Bowl commercials have also evolved from the early days. Once the big game increased its audience with the half-time shows, corporate America realized that the Super Bowl had a captive audience of nearly every household in America during that time slot. What better platform to advertise a product?!

Now the commercials are very entertaining and who doesn’t look forward to seeing the Clydesdale horses? It is also fun for people to hang around the proverbial water cooler at work on Monday morning after the big game to discuss their favorites. That being said, everything comes with a price. Super Bowl commercials have ranged anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars early on to millions of dollars currently; all for a 30-second ad… mind-blowing!

In 2016, Jacob Chase, a regular guy from Los Angeles, won a cool $1 million for his homemade Super Bowl commercial, “Doritos Dogs” in the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. Not a bad payout! Unfortunately, Doritos is not sponsoring the contest anymore.

Super Bowl commercials sure have come a long way since the Noxzema ads in the 70s!


The Super Bowl has become somewhat of an American holiday. Friends and family get together and gather around the television with beer, wings and other party foods. The event has something for everyone. Some people watch the Super Bowl for the football, some for the half-time show, some for the commercials and some for a combination of all three. Whatever the reason, there is no denying that countless people tune in to watch every year!

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.