Why the Super Bowl is a Financial Education, not just an Economic, Juggernaut

By Dan Kadlec

HOUSTON—One must be impressed walking around the grounds at Super Bowl LI. The big game itself is a sideshow; the main event is marketing and consumerism.

Certainly, I am not the first to make this observation. Yet on a day that has become a de facto holiday—Super Bowl Monday, when absenteeism and tardiness at work soar—it seems fitting to take stock of this grand display.

The NFL is fantastically successful. Fans love the game. That lures national sponsors and, this year, 417 fully vetted local vendors to NRG stadium and the pre-game festivities in and near the George R. Brown Convention Center.

There is nothing wrong with an overblown party to celebrate an economic juggernaut. The nine-day celebration is expected to bring up to $500 million to this city, which has been hit hard by sluggish energy prices.

Tickets went for up to $17,000. The average fan attending spent $8,000 on the trip. Homes near the venue rented for more than $10,000 a night. You could get a selfie with Johnny Manziel for $50. Is that money well spent?

The answer, of course, depends on a person’s means and how much they love the game and, um, Johnny Manziel. Clearly, though, some will have gone overboard and are flying home today with a hangover to wait for credit card bills that will make them nauseous all over again.

It’s OK to splurge once in a while. Celebrate your team or your passion. That’s why you work—to enjoy your life. But what struck me most viscerally as I strolled the grounds here is just how commercial this event is, and in turn the degree to which America is a consumer society.

Again, that’s OK. America’s domestic economy, two-thirds of which is consumer driven, is the envy of many countries. But there is a potent reminder here for anyone concerned with the financial future of young people: marketing and consumerism engulf every part of our life. The ability to resist impulse purchases is a life skill that pays dividends forever.

Advertisers are very good at creating urgency and need around their products. Financial literacy lessons must reinforce the difference between things you need and things you merely want—and that for things you merely want the smart course is saving first, not using plastic now and likely paying even more later on.

It’s hard not to get sucked in. That’s a marketer’s mission. It is up to financial educators to show young people that this is the biggest game of all.


Posted in Bank of Dad on February, 2017