Super Bowl

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Working Paper Series, Paper No. 10-01

Economics of the Super Bowl
Victor Matheson†

January 2010

Abstract The Super Bowl is America’s premier sporting event. This paper details basic economic facts about the game and examines the controversy surrounding the purported economic impact of the game on host communities. While the league and sports boosters claim that the game brings up to a $500 million economic impact to host cities, a review of the literature suggests that the true economic impact is a fraction of this amount.

JEL Classification Codes: L83

Key Words: sports, stadiums, Super Bowl, impact analysis, football

Department of Economics, Box 157A, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610-2395 USA, 508-793-2649 (phone), 508-793-3708 (fax),

Introduction The Super Bowl, the season-ending championship game of the National Football League, is by most measures the most significant annual sporting event in the United States. The game routinely attracts a sellout audience willing to pay top dollar for seats. In 2008, the face value for a typical Super Bowl ticket averaged $700, and ticket scalpers could expect to receive many times that figure in the secondary market. Table 1 shows the average price for a Super Bowl ticket sold on StubHub, a large secondary market dealer, between 2003 and 2009. The Super Bowl‟s television viewing numbers are even more astounding. The Super Bowl is far and away the most watched television program in the United States every year. For example, 19 of the 40 most watched programs in U.S. television history are Super Bowls, and more recently, the last 10 Super Bowls are the 10 most watched programs of the past decade. Between 2000 and 2009, the average Super Bowl attracted just over 90 million viewers in the United States. By way of comparison, over the same period the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals drew 14.3 million per game, the World Series attracted an audience of...
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