By Ken Belson
NEW YORK TIMES – SPORTS
Once upon a time, a Super Bowl halftime show meant Carol Channing, college marching bands, Up With People and salutes to Louis Armstrong. These days, headliners like the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney happily line up to play a 12-minute set.
This year, the Who is headlining the show, a curious choice because the band has not released an album of new songs in four years and its first farewell tour was in 1982, before many people who will be watching the game were born.
Bill Curbishley, the Who’s manager for 39 years, jumped at the chance to play. Performing at the Super Bowl, he knows, means reaching about 100 million television viewers, a great way to promote the band’s new greatest hits album, publicize a coming tour and reach fans who might know the Who only because its songs are heard on the “CSI” television shows.
“I don’t think it will sell millions and millions of albums, but it will definitely have an impact,” Curbishley said. “If you get into people’s consciousness, it helps.”
The results are often immediate. In the week after Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the Super Bowl two years ago, sales of the band’s greatest hits album tripled, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Their songs also climbed the charts before the Super Bowl because of commercials publicizing the halftime show during playoff games.
The N.F.L. does not pay an appearance fee, though it does cover all of the expenses for the band and its often ample entourage of several dozen stagehands, family and friends.
Those costs are more than offset by the three-year sponsorship deal the league has with Bridgestone estimated to be worth about $10 million. Merchandise specific to the halftime show like T-shirts and hats with the Who’s name on them generate extra revenue.
Bridgestone’s sponsorship of the halftime show is an extension of its wider deal with the N.F.L. The company’s name is announced frequently in promotional ads during the playoffs and appears in a customized logo, which is onscreen for about half of each band’s 12-minute set. Bridgestone is featured with the N.F.L. in print advertisements, and two of its television spots are played during the first and second halves.
The company also receives access to a suite and about 100 tickets to the game, which are used by executives and customers.
Bridgestone is trying to renew its sponsorship deal with the N.F.L. because the event has helped increase tire sales. The company says that its market share has grown by double digits in the first quarter in each of the last two years, while other brands in the industry have had their share decline in the same period, according to John Baratta, the president of Bridgestone’s consumer replacement tire business.
Although the company says it cannot attribute all of its gains to the halftime sponsorship, “the image of our brand has been elevated as a result of the tie-ins with these major events,” said Baratta, who added that the company’s core customers, men ages 25 to 54, were the biggest group of Super Bowl viewers.
The N.F.L. has sold halftime sponsorships since 1993, the year after Fox broadcast its popular show “In Living Color” during the halftime show, drawing viewers away.
To compete, the N.F.L. brought in Arlen Kantarian from Radio City Productions to work on Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” performance in Pasadena, Calif.
The show was more expensive to produce, so the league sold a halftime sponsorship to Frito-Lay.
“It offset the extra cost to the league,” said Jim Steeg, the chief operating officer of the San Diego Chargers, who was the league’s vice president for special events. The halftime show budgets before then were “less than seven figures,” he said.
Bridgestone and other sponsors are not consulted about the choice of musical acts. That is up to the N.F.L. and specifically to Charles Coplin, the league’s vice president for programming. The league used to outsource the production of the halftime show. That stopped after Janet Jackson’s infamous ”wardrobe malfunction” in 2004.
Now, the league chooses bands and handles the production itself. It even filters the songs that cannot be sung during the performance.
The Who, Coplin said, was chosen because its music is familiar to many viewers and plays well in big stadiums. He said the recent spate of older bands was no guarantee another one would be chosen for next year’s Super Bowl, which will be in Arlington, Tex. Either way, he figures to have no trouble finding acts willing to play.
“It’s become the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ of its time,” Coplin said.