Super Bowl and media literacy

Posted on: January 28, 2015
Tags: Super bowl, Nfl, Football, Alcohol, Media literacy

By Christi Valentini

Advertising messages are all around us, many obvious and upfront and many hidden. Families across America and worldwide will tune in on Feb. 1 to watch this season’s NFL Super Bowl, a football game which annually draws huge audiences and record advertising dollars. The Nielson Company estimated last season’s Super Bowl drew an audience of 111 million people, making it the largest television viewing audience in history.

A televised event that large is bound to draw advertiser interest, but the Super Bowl has created a commercial subculture in recent years with viewers who are not football fans tuning in to check out the latest commercial offerings and making football fans stay in front of televisions so they are not left out of the discussions at work the next day.

Do you believe advertising influences the decisions you make?  What pops in your head when you read the following: “Tissue”, “Pop”, “Fast Food” and “Chocolate”?  The fact that you respond with a specific product name demonstrates how effective advertising is in our daily life.  One of the most influential components in our decision making is advertising.  Advertisers spend millions, sometimes billions, of dollars on marketing to influence you to try and/or purchase their products.

Viewers also need to keep in mind the target audiences for advertised products and not be confused into thinking a product is automatically acceptable for their use, such as alcohol advertised for adults and not underage teens.

One way to protect ourselves from being persuaded (whether consciously or subconsciously) is to become media literate.  Media Literacy is the ability to assess, analyze and evaluate media in a variety of forms. Becoming media literate can help us keep perspective.

The first step in becoming media literate is identifying where we might find advertising. Television, music, movies, magazines, billboards and clothing are just a few examples of places adverting might be found. Not only is it important to identify where we might find ads, we must also identify to whom the ad is directed, also known as the “target audience.”  Determining the target audience is the second step.  The third step in becoming media literate is figuring out what technique or techniques the advertisers are using.

Some common advertising techniques used frequently by the alcohol industry include: celebrity endorsement, bandwagon appeal, popularity appeal, maturity/sophistication appeal, sex/romance appeal and fun/relaxation appeal.  Advertisers use these techniques to create a hidden message.  The last step in media literacy is figuring out the hidden message.  The hidden message is what the advertisers are implying.

When watching the commercials on Super Bowl Sunday, encourage your family and friends to analyze the commercials.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the obvious message?
  • What is the hidden message?
  • What techniques does the ad use?
  • Is this product healthy for me?
  • What was your first reaction to the ad?
  • Now that you have analyzed the ad, what is your response?


For more to help you identify, analyze and evaluate media messages, visit: