Super Bowl Halftime Show – How did we get here?

We all know why the NFL players are on the field Superbowl Sunday, but what about the halftime performers? The headliners reportedly only receive a small fee paid by their union contract (the NFL does cover the production cost of the show and travel expense), yet performers must see this is as worth it.

Historically, spikes in sales and streams are seen the day after, performers can use it as a platform to promote new releases or tours and get in front of millions of eyeballs. Newsweek reported that in 2020 Shakira saw a 230% spike in streams. In 2014 Bruno Mars’ album sales jumped 92% and Forbes reported he jumped from #7 to #3 on the Billboard top 200. Tickets for his next tour went on sale the next day. Michael Jackson, who arguably started this super bowl phenomena in 1993 saw a sales bump to his ‘Dangerous’ album after his halftime performance. Last year when Rhianna performed, the camera ‘caught’ her doing make up touch ups using a Fenty product. Google search traffic for Fenty skyrocketed and the product was featured on the website. Fenty, of course, is Rhianna’s company, thus making the stage her commercial.

The halftime show has not always been such a spectacle and ratings driver. It started out as entertainment for those in the stands who hadn’t left their seats to visit the concessions stands or bathrooms. The entertainment consisted of area marching bands. Bigger name talent was introduced as the game gained in popularity. Carol Channing is thought to be the first back in the 70’s.  In 1976 celebrating the bicentennial, the audio system was upgraded to stereo grade and dancers and a huge cake were brought on the field. There have been dogs on the field, audience participation involving holding flash cards aloft in the 80’s and a show featuring floats, balloons, and Mickey Mouse himself. There was a salute to New Orleans with a 5-story steamboat and a tribute to Peanuts. Then in the 90’s came the known talent with New Kids on The Block, Gloria Estefan and the 1993 game changer, Michael Jackson. The show continued to evolve each year with bigger name talent and production costs soaring into the millions.

Although viewing is fragmented, the Superbowl still has the power to draw eyes to the screen and there have been times the halftime show had more eyeballs on it than the game. The Superbowl continues to be the most watched program on TV and the NFL consistently has games in the top-rated programs each year.

Halftime acts are performers, and this is an opportunity to perform live and entertain millions, along with maybe some self-promotion to boot. As long as we are entertained for those 15 minutes.

This blog post was written by Julie Block-Padden

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