The Big Bang

With Super Bowl XLVI this Sunday, our new lineup of special issues kicks off with the marketing-crazed world of pro sports

This Sunday, it’s extremely likely that the largest TV audience ever assembled will plunk down in front of their flat screens to watch Super Bowl XLVI—and the carnival of advertising surrounding it.

Last year’s big game drew an incredible 111 million viewers. And this year, the rematch between big-market rivals the New York Giants and the New England Patriots (after the Giant’s underdog victory over the Pats in 2008),  incandescent with hype, will certainly blow away that audience record.

That’s the beauty of the Super Bowl. Its theatrical tension consistently draws the year’s biggest, most engaged audience, and marketers will hemorrhage money, as much as $3.5 million per 30-second spot this year to be a part of it.

In a fragmented media world, big sports media events, the last true reach vehicles, get people to tune in. They defy ad skipping, foster communal viewing and, if you’re trying to sell cars, beer, sneakers, iPads or movie tickets, you have to suit up, pop in your mouthguard and literally get in the game.

In our first themed issue of 2012, Adweek examines the relationship between sports media and marketing. Staff writer and sports specialist Anthony Crupi provides an historical perspective on athletes as endorsers. From proto pitchman Joe Namath to Tom Brady and Nascar’s Danica Patrick, Crupi takes a look at the increasingly intricate bond between players and brands. The interesting twist, of course, is Tim Tebow. Super fit, handsome, an underdog who defied the odds and frequent disses this past NFL season with the Denver Broncos and beyond squeaky clean, Tebow’s endorsement prospects are unclear because of his overtly Christian faith.

Crupi also sat down for an exclusive interview with marketing executives from the four corporate sponsors of the Giants/Jets MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to determine the upside of spending millions of dollars to have their brands attached to a massive and modern sports facility.

This issue was a staff-wide team effort coordinated by special reports editor Tony Case and designed by creative director Nick Mrozowski. The rest of the issue in print and on the Web (check out our Super Bowl hub and Sports Poll on offers sports coverage from front to back, including a First Mover Q&A with CBS Sports’ Jim Rome; a Data Points on the demographic breakdown of the National Football League’s Super Bowl television audience; our picks of the best sports-themed magazine covers of the past year; an early look at this year’s Super Bowl creative; a Perspective on the endorsements of professional tennis players; and an Information Diet with noted Sports Illustrated writer Peter King.

Some stories are just too big to tell with one feature and a companion infographic. Throughout the year we will create these “tent-pole” special issues and franchises around other trending topics like Hispanic media and, in this presidential election year, the state of the news-gathering business.

Our digital coverage will also be anchored by special themes. Mobile will be dissected in the Feb. 13 issue, followed by media tech, social and digital advertising sales. Finally, we also will introduce a special quarterly franchise devoted to specific demographic groups that marketers must thoroughly understand if they’re to reach them effectively with their brand messaging.

We’ll begin this series on demographics with the women’s issue, slated for Feb. 27, to be followed by editions that will provide deep-dive analysis on kids, tweens and, finally, in the fall—just in time for the new football season—men.

That brings us full circle. We feel the sporting life certainly warrants an entire issue. We hope you agree.

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