Trump card could be played at Super Bowl

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 29, 2017 4:23 PM

By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - From the broadcast booth to the owners' suites the Trump effect will be felt on and off the field at the Super Bowl say industry experts, as a 'Make America Great Again' beat provides the background music for the country's biggest sporting party.

Upwards of 180 million Americans could be huddled around televisions on Feb. 5 to watch the National Football League's title game between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, and newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump's vision of America could well be reflected in everything from advertising to the broadcast and halftime shows.

With FOX televising this year's showcase viewers can expect a pro-Trump tone but the network will nonetheless have to strike a balance taking into account the current political landscape, says Dennis Deninger, who works in the sport management program at Syracuse University and teaches a course The Super Bowl in Society.

"I don't think FOX News made any secret about who they preferred win the election," Deninger told Reuters. "Obviously they are putting on a telecast that is going to reach close to 200 million people over the course of the game, so they have to reach out to the more than 65 million people or so who voted for Donald Trump.

"They have to be careful that it is not politically weighted one way or another.

"In the words of the NFL, the Super Bowl is the ultimate expression of America.

"Nothing unites us and lets us soak up everything we love about our country like the Super Bowl."

Trump's election could also cause advertisers to call an audible on Super Bowl commercials as they recalibrate the mood of the country and the market they want to target.

With 30 second spots running at around $5 million, the uncertainty in the economy created by the change in administration could impact how marketers view the Super Bowl, according to a report on Fortune.com.

"There were things that were in place before the election was decided and there are things that have happened recently," Rick Burton, professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University told Reuters.

"What's the message going to be?

"I'm fascinated to find out whether or not the America Trump spoke to in order to win the presidency is the America advertisers are going to want to speak to."

Trump's first weeks in office have been marked by protests and the Super Bowl could also provide a potential flash point particularly during the halftime show where Lady Gaga, who has routinely expressed her support when it comes to LGBT rights, will be the headliner.

The President's protectionist rhetoric and plans for a wall, a stretch of which would run along the Texas/Mexican border, would also appear at odds with the NFL's global ambitions that have included building bridges into the Mexican market playing a regular season game in Mexico City last year.

Tom Brady's relationship with President Trump has already become an unwanted distraction for the New England quarterback and one that will surely follow him to Houston.

Brady has scrambled to avoid being pulled into the debate over some of the President's policies, distancing himself from some of those views with the help of some blocking from Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also described by Conway as "a good friend of the President's" who attended the inauguration.

"I don't want to get into it, but if you know someone, it doesn't mean you agree with everything they say or they do," Brady said on his weekly appearance on WEEI radio.

Trump, who owned New Jersey Generals of the now defunct USFL and was more recently linked to a bid to purchase the Buffalo Bills, has praised the NFL as both a brand and a reflection of American values.

"Football is closely identified as part of the American way of life, dramatizing the virtues America believes in, the team work, the heroism, the power, all of those things America wants to present to the world," explained Deninger.

"In 2012 NFL films put together a four-part series call Star Spangled Sundays and one of the people they interviewed was Donald Trump."

Deninger well recalls Trump paying homage to the NFL.

"Trump's quotes were: 'The NFL is a very big part of the United States or the American culture. The NFL brand is amazing, I study brands, I am brand, the NFL brand is absolutely a fantastic brand. The NFL became the number one sport in this country because football is a great game.'"

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Andrew Both)