Super Bowl halftime shows are often a marketing success and have kick started or revived the careers of numerous superstars. While many shows over the years have been memorable for the top talent recruited to perform and the unlikely pairing of artists brought together (Aerosmith, Britney Spears and Nelly), the shows are often applauded by the football faithful and those who simply tune in for a free concert.

However, this year the NFL has reportedly asked prospective Super Bowl halftime show finalists to pay to play the show, and it sent shockwaves across the web. Why should an artist have to pay for this top honor? How is this fair?

Exposure Requires Money

In my opinion, it is a fair request because the artist is paying for exposure just like the brands running commercials and the Super Bowl sponsors. The Super Bowl is arguably one of the biggest nights on television and has become a staple for those in the advertising industry to tune in and see the highly anticipated commercials. Cities across the United States place bids to host the Super Bowl, so why are the artists exempt from placing a bid for the halftime show?

The Model has been successful

I think an important detail to bring to light is the NFL’s timing of this move. Big artists like The Rolling Stones, The Who and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are most likely not going to pay for the halftime show, and they have already played so this is not a concern. On the other hand, newer artists such as Katy Perry are more likely to pay for the exposure, and I think it is worth the investment.

There are numerous statistics that showcase the benefit of playing a halftime show. According to a Rolling Stone article, artists who perform during the halftime show often times have boosted sales as a result of this performance. In addition to this, playing the halftime show is essentially playing a concert for one of the largest audiences imaginable, and it offers something that the other forms of sponsorship and advertising do not; the chance to shine on the center stage without any competition.

The NFL has built this audience and “Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

The NFL is simply monetizing this exclusivity and using the opportunity to make a profit from those who desire to ‘rent’ the audience they have worked for decades to build. In the world of advertising, paying for the halftime show is just another medium for promoting a brand, and most popular musical acts today are indeed a brand, so why are we criticizing the NFL for being the platform for this promotion?

It comes down to dollars and cents

  • Brands have to pay in excess of 7 figures for a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl. This obviously brings more exposure to the brand with the intention of generating increased sales.
  • Sponsors of the NFL have to pay substantial sums of money to have their brand, logo, and likeness used in ‘big game’ promotions. The added exposure increases brand awareness and hopefully, sales.
  • Cities have to shell out millions for the chance to attract seas of people to their city, by hosting the ‘big game.’ This game brings people to your city, where they will be spending money on food, lodging, entertainment, etc.


  • Why shouldn’t artists have to pay as well? They will be gaining exposure, potential record sales, and increased concert opportunities?

In the world of online marketing, paying for exposure is the name of the game if you are looking to take advantage of an audience someone has already built. Whether this is Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing, or digital media buys, paying the destination with the audience is required if you want to guarantee your content to be prominently displayed to that audience. Add in the fact you get to control the message, have exclusivity, and reap immediate benefits, you are looking at quite a large investment. There is nothing different in play here with the NFL charging artists to play the Super Bowl. If you want the exposure in front of this massive audience, it generally comes with a price.