What Super Bowl Ads Say about the Audience’s Health

By Jamie Wells, M.D. — Feb 01, 2017
If someone's lifestyle was represented by the totality of the products advertised during the Super Bowl, the composite picture would be of a sedentary individual with an unhealthy diet, who consumes excessive alcohol and drives everywhere. Do people really live that way? Probably not, but the ads reveal something interesting. 
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Full Disclosure: Before five minutes ago, I was unsure what teams made it into the upcoming Super Bowl. I mean, if one of them isn’t the Eagles, then my attention span plummets to nonexistent.

But, being that “THE” game is apolitical and topical, what better way to contribute some semblance of expertise than through analysis of the ads and how they may or may not reflect the health interests and possible status of the audience? 

Given that the ads are my favorite part of the event anyway, they will be the focus.  Because they are the focus of a lot of people, the ads have become a cultural phenomenon, and so there is real investment in being entertaining. It sometimes makes or breaks companies for the year so they want to appeal even to those not captivated by the sporting event itself.  

But you can determine the demographic of greatest interest by the ads. Ever watch golf?  You will note the disproportionate number of advertisements for erectile dysfunction (ED) medications - and in other media the commercials will even tell us to see the full disclosure in a golf magazine. Why, when according to the National Institutes of Health 12 percent of men under 60 and 22 percent in their 60s have what is considered true erectile dysfunction? Does ED strike golfers more than the larger population? Or is ED a symptom of other issues and that precludes other sports? ED can by a symptom of heart disease, for instance, and other medical conditions. Or is it that golf is primarily played by older men and ED is often a greater challenge as men age, so product placements geared toward golfers provides more bang for their buck? 

Such is the case here. Though a valid argument might be that exposure alone at an event like this may serve to trump or edge out precise audience breakdowns, these spots get replayed and replayed and are ever associated with the event. That said, it might be more accurate to ascertain the leading health status of the audience in a weekly NFL game from assessing the ads than the Super Bowl given the expanded diversity of viewership.

If an individual’s entire life was made up of the totality of the products placed in this imminent spectacle, then it would describe an unhealthy diet replete with sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol, endless internet access with potential small business ownership along with an ability to drive anywhere without ever needing to exercise while always keeping a clean home. Now, who lives that way? Pretty certain we all do the poor eating or inactive part in phases of varying degree, some more than others.  

Being that that approach is a total Debbie Downer one, a more worthwhile endeavor might be to recognize that some snickers or skittles at a major sporting event every now and again may not be the biggest deal. Attaining and maintaining good health is a delicate dance between consistently nurturing our mind, body, soul and spirit through minimizing chronic stress, getting proper rest, nutritious eating, routine exercise, social connectedness, intellectual pursuit with subsequent growth and managing to find our respective joy. This combination effectively executed prompts a life well lived.

The individual is the variable, however. Many of us face struggles in the food and exercise arena while others in risky behaviors such as smoking, drug or alcohol abuse. The medical impact of the aforementioned activities can be further elucidated by clicking on the blue links. 

The message for the Super Bowl is to enjoy your family and friends. Create a special memory. Find the entertainment that makes you happy. And, while the occasional splurge is also integral to living, reign it in Monday and throughout the vast majority of your calendar days if you desire to promote your own longevity and well-being

And, never forget, that teams of very bright professionals are studying your behavior beyond this Sunday to understand your purchase patterns. Their goal is to sell a product. Yours is to be around long enough to enjoy it.