Numbers And Lawsuits Today …

Today, I want to review some of the numbers that are associated with this year’s Super Bowl game that will happen on Sunday.  It is – by a Secretariat-like margin – the biggest sporting event of the year in the US.  The anticipated TV audience for the game itself is 100 million viewers – – give or take a couple of million.  That number is approximately double the number of viewers for the two Conference Championship games two weekends ago and those two games attracted audiences that were three or four times larger than anything else that is scheduled to be on TV this year.

That huge audience is the reason that FOX can charge – – and has sold – – ad slots of 30 seconds each during the game at a cost of $7M; the average charge for an ad during the game is more than $6.5M for 30 seconds.  Reports say that there are still a few open ad slots in the brutally overdone pregame show and only a few contingent slots in an overtime period should it be necessary.  According to a statement by the network, FOX expects to clear $500M from the Super Bowl this Sunday.

The biggest buyer of ad slots this year will be Anhueuser-Busch; they have purchased 3 full minutes of ad time during the game.  There will be a new category of products advertised this year; Remy Martin has purchased ad time meaning that liquor will join beer and wine as alcoholic beverages making a pitch to that immense TV audience.

There will be a conspicuous product absence this year too.  If you recall, last year’s Super Bowl game featured a whole bunch of ads for cryptocurrency.  This year there is no representation from that product segment for the game or for the pregame according to a statement released by FOX.  I think I will miss crypto ads this year because I really want to know from Matt Damon what comes after:

“Fortune favors the brave.”

For me, the big question about Super Bowl ads is the use of ad time by sponsors to tell the audience about things other than the product they are trying to sell.  Over the past couple of years, there has been a lot of air time devoted to issues other than the merits of a product/service for sale by the advertiser such as sustainability or child welfare.  I wonder if a company like Anheuser-Busch will use its three minutes of ad time during the game to tell me about their various beverages or if they will use that time to tell me about a crisis in the world’s rainforests.  We shall see…

Another numerical aspect for Sunday’s game is the anticipated betting handle. If I counted correctly, 33 of the 50 states in the US now have legalized sports betting; with that expanded reach, the total handle for bets on the game and peripheral wagers tied to the game is expected to be $1.1B.  The State of Nevada no longer enjoys its virtual monopoly on legal sports books in the US; nevertheless, the anticipated handle for sportsbooks in Nevada is $176M which should be the largest handle in the US.

Another number to consider – – albeit one that I will take with a grain of salt – – is an estimate by the American Gaming Association that the total amount of money bet on the Super Bowl including things like office pools, personal wagers and bets placed with local bookies will be $7.6B.  The reason I take that estimate with a grain of salt is that it behooves the American Gaming Association to represent that there is a large reservoir of bets out there in addition to the handle taken in by those legal sportsbooks in those 33 states.  As companies look for opportunities to expand their enterprises, estimates of this sort become valuable talking points.

Having said all that, there is clearly a lot of Super Bowl betting that goes on outside the sportsbooks.  I am not convinced however that the legal handle is only about 15% of the total amount wagered…

And what would the lead-up to a major event like the Super Bowl be without a lawsuit?  About 3 weeks ago, the city of Phoenix was sued over an ordinance referred to as a “Clean Zone”.  What Phoenix wanted to do was to disallow temporary signage in a large section of the city without the approval of the organizing committee for the Super Bowl extravaganza.  A local resident who owns a couple of properties in the area that would be part of the “Clean Zone” sued the city claiming he was harmed by the city ordinance because he could not rent out temporary signage space on his properties.  The city ban was taken to mean there would be no signs using unlicensed Super Bowl LVII trademarks and/or any ads by competitors for sponsors of the local effort to host the game.  Some of those sponsors include Apple Music, Bud Light, Lowe’s and Pepsi.

Last week, a judge in Maricopa County – where Phoenix is – ruled that the “Clean Zone” restrictions were “an unconstitutional delegation of government power”.  Here is what that judge said:

“The Resolution (which established the idea of the Clean Zone) provides no standards to guide decision-maker’s discretion. It was also unconstitutional of the City to delegate this power to an unaccountable private actor.”

The city fathers scrambled to try to amend the Resolution but that too earned them a slap from the judge:

“The first time Plaintiff could take action on a facially constitutional law was at a time when it was too late for him to obtain his own use permit. Any delay is the cause of the City’s conduct and not that of Plaintiff.”

And …

“Mandamus is proper here because the City has refused to consider Plaintiff’s request for a sign because they claim it is too late. Again, as the City caused the delay by enacting an unconstitutional law, and then correcting the problem in way that denies Plaintiff the opportunity to apply to post speech on his property, the only remedy available at this time is a Court order.”

And …

“In summary, the City created the need for this litigation by enacting an unconstitutional resolution. They further exacerbated the problem, by only choosing to remedy their error when it was too late for Plaintiff to apply to exercise his right to speech. The City’s offer that Plaintiff can file his temporary sign application only if permitted by a private entity renders the application of an otherwise facially constitutional resolution to be unconstitutional.”

It sure sounds to me like the city fathers in Phoenix lost out big time in this matter.  I wonder how that ruling which references a restriction of speech might apply to any attempt by another host city to establish a different version of a “Clean Zone”.

Finally, since the elected officials in Phoenix took such a legal drubbing there, let me suggest that they might not want to be bound by this suggestion made by George Bernard Shaw:

“We should all be obliged to appear before a board every 5 years and justify our existence … on pain of liquidation.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………