Newswise — For most people, the Super Bowl isn’t just about the game. For many, the food, commercials, and entertainment take center stage. Ahead of the big game, Virginia Tech experts can speak on a variety of topics, including Taylor Swift's impact on the NFL and gender bias, a new era of marketing, gambling, healthy snacks, and more.

Super Bowl LVIII and the Taylor Swift effect

The teams are set. Kansas City will take on San Francisco in the Super Bowl on Feb. 11. According to sports media expert and former ESPN analyst Anthony Amey, this season’s ratings for the NFL are the best they’ve been since 2015. A big part of that has been the relationship between Taylor Swift and Chiefs’ Travis Kelce. Amey says she has been a tremendous marketer for the league and Kansas City. Virginia Tech economist Jadrian Wooten says her likely attendance at the Super Bowl will continue to attract viewers who wouldn’t normally watch and that will result in a big return for Super Bowl advertisers who bought ad spots back in the fall. More here in his weekly blog, Monday Morning Economist.

Amey points to these other headlines to watch for surrounding the game:

  • A win for Kansas City would make the Chiefs the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since Tom Brady led the Patriots to back-to-back titles in the 2003-04 seasons.

  • Kansas City has played in four of the last five Super Bowls, making the Chiefs only the third franchise ever to accomplish that.

  • San Francisco is aiming to win its sixth Super Bowl and the 49ers’ first since the 1994 season. A win for them would tie the 49ers with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots for the most all-time. 

  • Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has won more playoff games prior to the age of 29 than anyone in NFL history, leading to debate that while still young he could be the greatest quarterback of all time.

Sexism in the sports industry 

“The backlash to the attention given to Taylor Swift this football season freshly revealed the deep vein of sexism that runs through American sports culture,” says Virginia Tech expert Megan Duncan. She explains that most sports fans develop their identity at a young age as a social bonding activity with family and friends. “A change to the perception of how the game should be experienced can be unsettling and remove the ease to which the game can feel like an escape to world events.” Non-male fans are a crucial source of growth for the NFL, but they often strictly cater to stereotypically feminine tropes when attempting to appeal to a non-male audience. Duncan says the industry needs to widen its culture to incorporate all people, including all gender identifies. “The sports media industry can do better to make all people excited to be a fan.”

Digital marketing and beyond 

Early planning, engagement, understanding the targeted audiences, and creating memorable marketing moments are just a few of the essential elements needed to create strong brand ties, says Virginia Tech marketing and brand management expert Donna Wertalik. “Brands who advertise in the Super Bowl have to be category leaders to sustain the cost,” she says. To get 30 seconds of airtime during the Super Bowl costs brands $7 million, creating a key moment to reach audiences. Brands must come up with ad-stopping power and utilize the social media platforms their target audience is on. “By using social media and social listening, now more than ever brands can track and provide much more personalized content, which then provides consumer value.” Wertalik dives into user-generated content, influencer marketing, and AI, which are all major marketing strategies.  

Digital privacy is important to consider when brands are implementing marketing. Marketers use what is called behavioral tracking to understand user preferences and effectively target ads. Location-based targeting is also used with geographic location. “Brands may use third-party vendors, which can mishandle your data if privacy practices are not in place,” she says.  

Super Bowl commercials

“A year after Super Bowl ads were flooded with 1990s nostalgia, the ad spots for this year's big game feature big celebrity appearances. But will you see Taylor Swift?” asks Virginia Tech communications and marketing expert Carrie Cousins. “Even from the stands, she's made a big impact on the big game, with advertisers you might not expect jumping into the mix because of the Swiftie effect, including women's brands NYX Makeup owned by L'Oreal, e.l.f. Cosmetics — also featured in the "Mean Girls" musical — and Dove.”  

Cousins and marketing expert Donna Wertalik can both discuss the trends with this year’s Super Bowl commercials, the most coveted, most expensive, and most viewed advertisements in all of television, with production and entertainment values that have built an annual tradition beyond the boundaries of football fandom.

Sports gambling and the Super Bowl

“The Super Bowl may not be the most gambled-on sporting event, but it is a significant time for sports betting. Last year, approximately 50 million gamblers collectively wagered an estimated $16 billion on the game, with roughly 1 in 5 Americans participating in some form. Given the heightened attention the season has seen, we may see even more betting activity this year,” says economic expert Jadrian Wooten.

“What makes this year's Super Bowl particularly intriguing are the unique proposition bets, or prop bets, that viewers may not be accustomed to seeing,” Wooten says. “While the usual prop bets, such as coin flip outcomes, the color of the Gatorade bath, and the length of the national anthem, will still be present, this year's choices also include unconventional options like betting on a post-game proposal and even whether Taylor Swift will make an appearance at the game.”

Dietitian offers advice for healthy snacking on Super Bowl Sunday

The Big Game is coming, and whether you’re joining with friends and family out of hardcore sports fandom or simply hoping for a glimpse of Taylor Swift in the stands, you might feel the need to strategize what those gathering before your television will get to munch on. Kristen Chang, a registered dietitian with the Virginia Tech Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, has tips for every stage of your snack preparation.

“On special occasions, many people fall into the trap of under-eating early in the day and ‘saving their calories’ for a big event,” Chang says. “To set yourself up for eating success on Super Bowl Sunday, consider the following general eating tips.” Read more here.

Chicken wings remain a Super Bowl favorite

Americans are expected to devour 1.45 billion chicken wings for the Super Bowl, according to the National Chicken Council. Michael Persia, a professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist in poultry nutrition and management in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, says the game’s impact on the industry has been transformative. “They’ve taken a portion of the bird that was undesirable, turned it into a valuable product, and reduced waste.” Persia says. The history of the wing and how it came into popularity is an interesting story that goes back to the 1980s. 

The science behind hot sauce

The first bite of the chicken wing dripping with hot sauce doesn’t feel so bad — flavorful, but has a bit of a kick. Eventually, that sweet heat turns into a roar complete with a tingling face and sweat streaked forehead.

Food science professor Sean O’Keefe says the levels of capsaicin, a colorless and odorless compound, found in peppers, are the reason why hot sauces bring the heat. “What the capsaicin does is bind to nerve receptors in the body and gives a sensation of burning.” As millions prepare to eat wings, O’Keefe is available to explain what makes hot sauce bring the heat and why extended exposure to capsaicin could make it more tolerable to the human body. Read more here.

Food safety tips following charcuterie meat salmonella outbreak

If a charcuterie board is something you’re considering for the big game spread, a recent salmonella outbreak linked to charcuterie meats has raised some concerns. Virginia Tech food safety expert Katheryn Parraga-Estrada is available to discuss the recall of some specific brands, what consumers need to know about salmonella and how to keep their food safe. Read more here.

The Super Bowl slump

The day after the Super Bowl is often followed by a big drop in productivity after a night of partying and celebration. Virginia Tech economist Jadrian Wooten says this can add to to have a significant impact on the economy — that lost productivity can cost the economy about $6 billion. “While the game may make only a small impact on an individual, it can add up quickly. Employers typically see the most employees call in sick, take extended lunch breaks, or simply spend the day in a daze after the big game.” The slump will be felt most in the two teams’ cities. “The most impact of this will likely be felt the most in Kansas City and San Francisco and it could last for several days as employees struggle to return to their usual level of productivity.” Read more on this topic in his weekly blog, Monday Morning Economist.