Sunday, February 6, 2011

Norman Stingley - Father of the Super Bowl

SuperBall® is a toy invented in 1964 by chemist Norman Stingley by compressing a synthetic rubber material under high pressure. He offered his invention to Bettis Rubber Company (for whom he worked at the time).  They turned it down, so he took it to toy company Wham-O® and they worked on developing a more durable version. The SuperBall® has an amazingly high coefficient of restitution. Dropped from shoulder level, SuperBall® bounces nearly all the way back; thrown down by an average adult, it can leap over a three-story building.  Initially the SuperBall® sold for ninety-eight cents at retail, by the end of 1966 it sold for as little as ten cents in vending machines.

The Super Bowl was created as part of the merger agreement between the National Football League (NFL) and its rival, the American Football League (AFL). After its inception in 1920, the NFL fended off several rival leagues before the AFL began play in 1960. The intense competitive war for players and fans led to serious merger talks between the two leagues in 1966.

One of the conditions of the agreement was that the winners of each league's championship game would meet in a contest to determine the "world champion of football". During the discussions to iron out the details, AFL founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt had jokingly referred to the proposed interleague championship as the "Super Bowl."

Hunt said that he thought of the name after seeing his daughter playing with a toy called - the SuperBall®. The SuperBall is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The name Super Bowl was feasible because postseason college football games had long been known as "bowl games" (The term originates with the Rose Bowl game, which was in turn named for the bowl-shaped stadium in which it is played).

Hunt later said that he only meant for his suggested name to be a stopgap until a better name could be found. Not having thought of one, the owners named the contest the NFL-AFL World Championship Game. Unsurprisingly, fans and media tended to use the shorter, unofficial name.

Starting with the third contest in 1969, the name "Super Bowl" became official.

The day on which the Super Bowl is played is now considered a de facto American national holiday called “Super Bowl Sunday”. It is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. In most years, the Super Bowl is the most-watched American television broadcast; Super Bowl XLIV, played on February 7, 2010 between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, became the most-watched American television program in history, drawing an average audience of 106.5 million viewers and taking over the spot held for twenty-seven years by the final episode of M*A*S*H.    

When it was called the AFL-NFL Championship Game, it was televised by both NBC and CBS, and it had a cost of $42,000 for a 30 second TV commercial. The price for a 30 second TV spot today will be $3 million, and that price is considered a bargain.

Today will be the highest traffic day in the history of both Facebook and Twitter, all due to the Super Bowl.

Would today’s national holiday even exist, if the game were simply called the AFL-NFL Championship Game?  Remember, the first game was not even sold out. More Super Bowl ads will be watched this year - via the Internet - than during the actual game. I say that we have chemist Norman Stingley to thank for today’s national holiday.

It is funny how technology changes our lives, in every possible way. Was the Super Bowl made for TV, or was TV made for the Super Bowl? The people who are lucky enough to be at the game today, will be watching the game live – and – they will be watching it on the largest HDTV it the entire world. Twitter and Facebook traffic results will now set the price for next year’s TV ads. Social Media viral marketing of the post-game advertisements are now more important that the airing of the TV ad itself.

In business as in sports, you never know how the ball is going to bounce. May your favorite team win!

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