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Super Bowl Literacy: For post-game learning

This week presents an opportunity to host a different kind of post-game show in our classrooms and libraries. You may want to prepare to revisit SB LIV with many of the videos, data, instructional resources, scaffolds, and portals available to support some engaging media literacy experiences.

To get started, Super Bowl offers a handy gallery of the current year’s commercials with a list of commercials of years past available along its right frame.

The New York Times Learning Network offers a rich collection of interdisciplinary ideas: Teach the Super Bowl: Ideas for Subjects Across the Curriculum.

Older students might enjoy the American Marketer’s Association’s Super Bowl LIV Brand Quiz.

The USA Today AdMeter, free with registration, encourages viewers/visitors to rate the 2020 Super Bowl ads. These data will be ripe for analysis in the coming weeks.

For many years, Frank Baker has been gathering resources that allow us to critically consider the commercial buzz around the annual Super Bowl game as an authentic opportunity for exploring media literacy.

In a MiddleWeb post, Frank Baker explained the value of examining ads as text:

It’s up to us, as educators, to pull back the curtain on how these highly persuasive texts might pull an emotional string which makes us remember (or want to purchase) the product or spread the message.

TV and other video commercials should be considered as texts because they present information that students can learn to scrutinize closely (analyze) and deconstruct.

As you watch or re-watch the ads with learners, consider Frank Baker’s Super Bowl Ad Analysis Worksheet either as a whole-class data collection tool or as a small group activity.

You might also consider using the questions gathered in Close Reading of Media Texts for post-game or post commercial analysis:

While these questions are suggested for before the game, they will work just as nicely post-game:

  1. What do you know about the Super Bowl game? Where did you learn it?
  2. Why does the game get tremendous media attention every year?
  3. What makes advertisers want to put their ads on this once-a-year sporting event?
  4. Why does ad time cost $5,6 million for just one 30-second ad?
  5. Who decides what order the ads air during the game?
  6. How do advertisers create buzz about their ads, even before the game is broadcast?
  7. Create a chart listing the known advertisers and research their parent companies.
  8. How many ads are for: alcohol? cars? TV shows? movies? Why is this so?
  9. Which ad(s) are you looking forward to viewing and why?
  10. Which propaganda/persuasion techniques would you expect to be used in each ad?
  11. How do advertisers make money from their Super Bowl spots?
  12. Might you find ads inside/outside/above the stadium? If so, where?
    Be on the lookout for not-so-obvious ads during the broadcast. (Students might want to create a list)
  13. Based on the ads scheduled to be broadcast, what demographic (gender, age) do you think each advertiser is trying to reach?
  14. How was social media used, if at all, by advertisers before and during the game itself?
  15. How do you plan to use social media, it at all, during the game?

Frank suggests these questions for consideration after the game:

  1. What ad(s) did you find most entertaining, and why? (students should be specific and give details here)
  2. What ad(s) did you find the most dull, and why?
  3. Which ad(s) did you think were most effective, and why?
  4. Which ad(s) were you most willing to share  with a friend?
  5. Which ad(s) featured well-known personalities? Why?
  6. Identify the “pathos/ethos/logos” and “techniques of persuasion” used in each ad.
  7. Calculate the total cost the TV network gains if each ad costs an estimated $5 million.
  8. How do Super Bowl advertisers get mileage for their message before and after the game?
  9. How many ads did you spot inside the stadium?  List them.
  10. How was social media used inside the broadcast; how did you use it, if at all?

Here are a few more of Frank Baker’s choices for encouraging media analysis in your instruction:

You may also want to check out USA Today’s retrospective gatherings of the most controversial Super Bowl ads of all time and the funniest Super Bowl ads of all time.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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