Monica Wadhwa, associate professor of marketing and supply chain management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, outlines whether the Super Bowl Halftime Show is still beneficial to entertainers’ brands in today’s digital age
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 3, 2020—For entertainers, it doesn’t get much bigger than performing during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. The exposure a performer can gain is immense—the halftime show airtime is estimated to be worth around $130 million.
However, in today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever for performers to reach large audiences. A single tweet or Instagram post can immediately engage an entertainer’s fanbase, and it does not require the weeks of choreography or the considerable production costs that accompany a Super Bowl performance.
Also, something that remains a little-known secret is that halftime show performers are not compensated. The thinking has always been that the attention a performer gains from the show is worth far more than any monetary value. That makes sense when you consider that last year’s Super Bowl was watched by 98.2 million viewers.
However, let’s take into account the social media followers of this year’s performers, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. Lopez has 110 million Instagram followers and 44.3 million Twitter followers. For Shakira, it’s 61 million and 51.7 million, respectively. With just a simple click, they can engage more people than there will be viewers for the game.
Despite that, Lopez was immensely excited about the opportunity to perform. In an interview with Billboard, she said, “I think it’s just like a fantasy for all musical artists to be able to play the Super Bowl.”
All of those eyes on Super Bowl Sunday can also bring considerable scrutiny. In 2017, for instance, Lady Gaga dealt with numerous body shamers across social media despite delivering a high-octane, energetic performance that was fitting for the big game. When she agreed to perform, she likely did not expect the social media backlash to be so negative.
Monica Wadhwa, an associate professor of marketing and supply chain management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, specializes in consumer decision making and branding. We touched base with her to see whether it’s still in an artist’s best interest to perform during the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
Q: Last year, we saw Rihanna, Adele, Jay-Z, Pink and Cardi B reportedly all turn down the opportunity to perform during the game. We know a lot of that was tied into the NFL’s stance on Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. However, do you think the fact that the performers have their own brands, which they can control via social media, also played a role in their decisions? Would they have been so likely to turn down the NFL’s offer if social media did not exist?
A: Social media has certainly made it easier to interact and engage with the audiences. The ability to reach millions of consumers across different platforms is like a dream come true for these performers. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges. One of the key challenges is controlling your brand image on social media. Let’s not forget that brand image is basically what people say about you. Social media has made it easier for people to talk about you. And, I am sure, we all know it’s a really tough task to impact people’s opinions. We know that Rihanna, who has 95.7 million followers on Twitter and 78.8 million followers on Instagram (many likely overlapping), has enough attention. But, had she agreed to perform last year and offended her followers, given the NFL’s stance on Colin Kaepernick, that could have negatively impacted her brand image. One such incident can really impact a performer’s image and in the era of social media, it can impact it with lightning speed. In fact, her refusal to perform likely made her followers believe that she shunned a big event and stayed true to her values, which was good for her brand image. In essence, we need to remember that offline events, such as the Super Bowl, amplify the buzz around you on digital media. And, as a performer, you need to be careful about whether that buzz is positive or negative.
Q: This year Jennifer Lopez and Shakira performed. Lopez has said she “was in tears” after learning she scored the gig. For her, performing in the show was an easy decision. Why do you think that’s the case?
A: This again goes back to how performing on big events, such as the Super Bowl, can amplify the buzz around you in digital media. This year, Colin Kaepernick’s controversy was sorted out. People who shunned the Super Bowl were again back with it, and the positive excitement was back. And, look, how both Jennifer Lopez and Shakira were managing their image even before they performed on the show. They clearly associated their performance with empowerment and unity. These are two strong Latina women, and the message of empowerment fits their brand image. In fact, performing on the show with this empowerment message should continue to impact their brand image positively, which is in contrast to what it would have done for Rihanna.
Q: While a Super Bowl Halftime Show performance may reach 100 million viewers, it also goes beyond that. Halftime performances are discussed in the media for weeks, even months and years, after the game is over. Is that one reason why it might still be beneficial for entertainers to perform?
A: Absolutely. That’s the one thing that we cannot put a dollar amount on. While it’s true that these performers have their own large followings, the same can be said for Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, The Insider, Access Hollywood and all of the other media outlets that are going to cover the show. If they go out and have a stellar performance, their brand could benefit for years to come. Again, I need to reiterate, offline and online channels are not standalone channels. If you perform well on an offline platform, such as the Super Bowl, it is going to amplify the buzz around you on social media. Think about it, people tweet about halftime performances while they’re happening. In the past, reports have shown that Justin Timberlake saw a 214% spike in Spotify streams in the hour following his 2018 performance. This year, during the halftime show, people were constantly tweeting about how Jennifer Lopez “killed it.” Many tuned into the game only for the halftime show!
Q: So we’ve gone over the various positives and negatives associated with performing during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Knowing all of that, do you think it’s still worthwhile for artists to say yes when the NFL comes calling?
A: I would say it is. It’s like when a brand manages their media calendar, they need to make sure that they are there on different channels. For example, just because we have social media, TV advertising has not become obsolete. A good TV advertisement can lead to people talking about you on different digital channels. This is also true for performers. Buzz about a performance during the Super Bowl can not only have a short-term immediate effect on sales, but if artists manage the pre-performance, performance and post-performance stages well, this buzz can have long lasting benefits.
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