The NFL All-Star Game takes place this Sunday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, as players from the AFC and NFC, elected by players, coaches and fans, come together to face off.
The creation of the Pro Bowl in 1951 allowed the best players from all teams in the two national conferences, the National Football League and the American Football League, to show off their abilities in a single game at the end of the season. Then in 1966, the AFL merged with the NFL to create a single league that would cover the entire United States and the old divisions would be renamed to become the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. It was always seen as a fantastic event and something that really mattered to players who wanted to be the best of the best and rivalries were commonplace.
These days it’s a lackluster affair with players not bothered or particularly interested in being picked in the first place. You constantly see players pulling out of the event due to injuries that carried over into the offseason or maybe they just don’t want to participate due to the risk of injury.
This year is no different with retiring Tom Brady, Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams and legendary Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner all opting out of the event. This year. The skill showdown often provides great entertainment, bringing out the competitive nature of some of the league’s biggest talents, but overall the game itself is a dud. However, we won’t miss the chance to show you Larry Allen bench pressing 100kg 43 times.
This raises the question of why they persist with the event. The answer, as with most marketed products, is money. Sponsorship revenue is the most important factor in pursuing the non-event that is the Pro Bowl.
Data from Statista.com demonstrates the steady but steady increase in sponsorship revenue which reached a record high last year of $1.6 billion, after crossing the billion mark in 2012. Conversely, viewership figures have been up and down, but generally appear to be on a downward trend. In 2020, around 8 million people tuned in to watch the game unfold. That’s down from numbers a decade ago, when around 12.5 million people spent their Sunday afternoon watching the event.
Between 2018 and 2020, viewership figures fell by almost 800,000, so after this year’s showdown, it will be interesting to see if the downward trend continues, but also to keep an eye on the revenues of sponsorship.
These two again have to be correlated at some point, because you can’t spend more and more money on something that attracts less and less of an audience each year.