February 4th, 2011
12:04 PM ET

The Super Bowl is the U.S.’s World Cup Final

The Green Bay Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's Superbowl at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Last year an average of 121 million viewers watched the game on televsion.
The Green Bay Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's Superbowl at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Last year an average of 121 million viewers watched the game on televsion.

The Green Bay Packers will clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in Super Bowl XLV. For those of you not familiar with Roman numerals, it will be the 45th edition of the marquee U.S. sporting event.

The Super Bowl has become so big, that a 30 second commercial spot during the upcoming game will cost $3 million. Just compare that with $40,000 per spot in the inaugural Super Bowl back in 1967.

U.S. interest is also at an all-time high. Last year’s Super Bowl surpassed the final episode of the series M*A*S*H as the most-watched U.S. TV broadcast ever, pulling in an average of 106.5 million viewers. According to futuressport.com, the global television audience for that same Super Bowl was 121 million.

In comparison, the 2010 World Cup final attracted close to 700 million viewers according to tournament organizers.

Granted, the figures may be grossly bloated, but even so, you can bet the real figure is still way bigger than the total Super Bowl audience.

It’s pretty easy to understand why the World Cup final pulls in more viewers than American football’s final. First off, football (soccer) is a global sport and because of that, practically every country in the world has a chance to qualify for the World Cup finals.

In the end, 32 countries from different parts of the world make it, thus drawing not only the attention of the participating national teams, but that particular continent’s fans whose nations missed out on qualifying.

Another key is that the World Cup takes place once every four years. There have only been 19 competitions since its inception back in 1930.

In contrast, American football is strictly American. Although there is a league in Canada, the sport thrives within the borders of the United States.

The NFL tried its luck in Europe when it founded the NFL Europe league in the mid-nineties. It was mostly used as a developmental league and a way to draw European fans, but it didn’t work out and the NFL pulled the plug in 2007.

The NFL is also adding international players to its rosters at a growing rate, but their numbers are still relatively small to compete with other American sports like baseball and basketball.

But no matter what the figures say, the Super Bowl is and always will be America’s sporting apex.

Americans could care less about the event’s global appeal because they know what’s big in the U.S. will inevitably carry some weight world-wide.

They know that the world will pay attention not because lots of countries are involved, but because it’s the love and pride of just one.

The Super Bowl shows no signs of slowing down as a marquee sporting event, and fans in the U.S. or across the world would much rather see it every year, rather than have to wait four.

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Filed under:  U.S. Sport
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Wambangulu

    I find it a little bit of an overkill, your attempt to compare the Super Bowl with the soccer world cup final. The latter is way too big as far as worldwide audience is concerned, not to mention more important as an event in itself. The closest the Super Bowl comes to compare is with the UEFA champions league final, which in the past year or two has edged the Super Bowl in terms of worldwide viewership.

    February 5, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  2. Ian Burgoyne (MYF) Master Four Future

    Greetings to all from Dubai. In honour of the US's World Cup Final.
    I have composed a short ode.....

    Now It Is Time- Super Bowl XLV

    Get to the point, get in their face
    Now it is time, to cut to the chase!
    You have had enough, you have taken the falls
    Now it is time, to show some balls!

    The Packers are down, they are in a hole
    Now it is time, to win this Super Bowl!
    The Quarterback yells, out his commands
    Now it is time, to meet his demands!

    One final push, then all will be fine
    Now it is time, to get over the line!
    A field goal away, from final victory
    Now it is time, to make your own history!

    A scream, a snap, the ball is in play
    Now it is time, it’s coming your way!
    This moment in time, that lasts forever
    Now it is time, it is Now or Never!

    One last assault, one final attack
    Now it is time, you may never be back!
    Your big decision, over the line or crossbar
    Now it is time, they both seem so ……far!

    Muscles strain, helmets grind and bodies fly
    Now it is time, but it’s not in the sky!
    There all coming in all coming for you
    Now it is time, what will you do!

    Will you run away, get sacked and cry
    Now it is time, are you going to die?
    Will you face them all, face up to the fight
    Now it is time, to show them your might!

    Faster than lightning, swift as an arrow
    Now it is time, to take away fans sorrow!
    Dodging and weaving now you have the ball
    Now it is time, for your place in the fame hall!

    You break thru the defence to take the crown
    Now it is time, it’s your touchdown!
    Super Bowl Champions now and forever
    Now it is time, it can’t be taken away ever!

    © 5th Feb 2011 Ian Burgoyne – (MYF) Master Your Future
    PS I am neutral. Good luck to both teams....

    February 5, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Reply
  3. Stevenson

    Isn't Rugby, played in Britain from around 1823 and subsequently in the rest of the Commonwealth, American Football without all the padded protection? Inspite of which it, too, does not have the popularity Soccor has in the UK and throughout the world. Therefore there is little chance of American Football ever becoming popular outside of its homeland.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:12 am | Reply
  4. king

    American football is fine but cannot rival the world Cup its too complicated...i just cant stand that whole business of ....chaos..you know...scores stretching to 100-45 points, touchdowns,a bunch of bozos crashing into each other .....the cheerleaders and that horrible American rough accent...the commentators..really this is a mess.the football World Cup is even more beautiful...where else can you get anthems and chants like those of the Germany fans in SA singing about the RAF bombers ..its all passion and unbelievable emotion...unlike any other sport anywhere.......no wonder whole populations are always on 'sit on the edge' when it comes to the National football matches.... NFL cant make it on the world stage period.

    February 9, 2011 at 9:31 am | Reply
  5. Dane

    What I don't understand is that for 60 minutes of playing time a game can last 3 hours! Why the need for all the breaks! Watching on TV there is an ad break seemingly every minute! NFL is not so much a sport as a marketing exercise! Try watch a game of proper football, with no ad breaks, that is how the rest of the world works.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  6. Luis

    The SuperBowl can only be compared to Soccer World Cup in terms of money but is far back in terms of popularity around the world.

    February 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Reply
  7. kunder

    the superbowl is just so good..

    February 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Reply
  8. H

    I do have trouble understanding why a sport that requires holding the ball should be called football, there is very limited kicking involved!

    I appreciate it is a very tactical, territorial game, but it does require a lot of equipment to play. You can't just have a fun kick around in the park like "soccer." I think that is why there is such appeal in football "soccer" you don't have to have all the fancy equipment.

    Rugby is a lot more free-flowing and fast paced than US football, and I think I even prefer Aussie rules to US rules football, but I think American football suits American tv preferences. There seem to be plenty of time outs and ad breaks, and it requires only as short attention span etc, so it can be quite commerical. Mind you, I've seen baseball and basketball games, both enjoyable, but again, lots of breaks etc...

    February 14, 2011 at 9:21 am | Reply
  9. filipino dude

    Oh COME ON!

    To the author, if you want to compare annual sporting events, then UEFA Champions League is way more far-reaching than yankee football(aka handegg).

    America, you can keep that string of ads that pretends to be a sport to yourselves. The whole world has a SHARED experience called football.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:08 am | Reply
  10. tuffymacca

    How nonsensical ,stupid &absurd 4 the writer to compare the FIFA WORLD CUP FINAL TO NFL Supebowl .There is simply no comparison coz the latter is an annual event & the FIFA Worldcup is staged after every 4yrs.The WRITER is typical stupid American who wants to hoodwink the whole that the SUPER BOWLis the most watched sport in the world no ,its not it doesnt even beat the yearly UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Final .Football will forever remain the world`s most popular in the world & it will remain unrivalled where as the NFL Superbowl is only watched by a TV audience of 110 million pple only.2.5 Billion pple watched Fifa worldcup final in 2002.It is utter nonsense 4 the writer to compare the American pigskin Super bowl to the FIFA World cup final .Football will forever remain the most popular sport in the world withor without the myopic ,hypocritical Americans.How dare this stupid writer compare Superbowl to the FIFA WORLD CUP FINAL,??????

    February 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  11. Michael McKenzie

    Maybe the NFL could raise its viewing numbers if it invested more in Europe and Asia. The NFL Europe wasn't that great but what if there was a NFL team in say London because the International Series game is there and usually fills Wembely.

    Also there is a large NFL following in Germany so a team there could also be fruitful.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  12. Professional Athletes David

    Wow, first of all, I would like to comment on the the picture. It is really fabulous, to put two image players in their stadium? Wow..I was really amazed, it surely does attract great attention, wouldn't it? Super Bowl XLV would surely be a smash hit between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:19 am | Reply
  13. Professional Athletes David

    Wow, first of all, I would like to comment on the the picture. It is really fabulous, to put two image players in their stadium? Wow..I was really amazed, it surely does attract great attention, wouldn't it?

    June 15, 2011 at 10:20 am | Reply
  14. Artemis

    Keep in mind the UEFA Champions League Final is played every year just like the Super Bowl is here. That is a much better comparison than the World Cup to the Super Bowl. The World Cup could not even possibly be played every year because it takes 2 years just to qualify as one of the 32 teams out of some 250 countries that want to compete. Plus each continent has it's own championship every 4 years as well (2 years apart from the World Cup). So this is a true world sporting event. Now the 2011 Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United got an estimated 400 million viewers worldwide. That's almost 4 times the Super Bowl viewership. An estimated 10 million of those viewers were American. So although the Super Bowl is big in America.....it does not hold that much clout around the rest of the world. The Super Bowl will always be big here... but it will never matter in the rest of the world all that much.. As for soccer (football)...it continues to grow everywhere in the world..including in the US. Soccer leagues here in the US thrive. MLS, A League.....Football leagues outside of the US & Canada.....do not! Europe just doesn't care for it.....That's why NFL Europe has failed. They have their own football ...and Rugby.... The Super Bowl is nice...but the TRUE World Champions can call themselves that because that's what the World Cup is!! Even the UEFA Champions aren't so arrogant to call themselves World Champions....they are the Champions of Europe...

    June 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  15. Harry Davis

    Gridiron is boring, too many commercial breaks. World cup is Presidents appeal. Who cares, I hate it. I will watch something else more appealing, probably watch CNN or some other show.

    February 4, 2012 at 1:01 am | Reply
  16. chris ennis

    As American Superbowl is one singular event, it by far has a higher worldwide viewership of any sport restricted to one country. So for all of you to bash on US football because it doesn't have as many viewers as UEFA or the World Cup that is because those events are all of Europe (a damn continent) and the entire WORLD. NFL is strictly for Americans and pulls over 100 million viewers (just one country), whereas the World Cup has 700 million viewers (world-wide). So don't run your mouths trying to bad mouth our sport, just because you have some sort of anti-American feelings.

    March 11, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply
    • freddy paredes

      Chris Ennis states that "Superbowl attracts 100 million viewers" in one country, then if we apply the same logic, India's cricquet final attracted 500 million viewers in juts one country as well....so NFL still loses...

      January 11, 2014 at 10:01 pm | Reply

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