By the Numbers: Recession Sacks Super Bowl Spending

Economy and Cinderella Cardinals take a toll, but Tampa's hardly going broke.

P.J. Mustain, right, takes his brother Cory's picture posing behind an oversize football uniform at the NFL Experience as part of Super Bowl XLIII Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, in Tampa, Fla.

P.J. Mustain, right, takes his brother Cory's picture posing behind an oversize football uniform at the NFL Experience as part of Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla.


The hoopla surrounding Super Bowl weekend has been as crazy as ever. But the economics...not so much. Prices for scalped tickets have plunged compared to last year and are continuing to drop. The usual big spenders have shrunk to medium spenders this year in Tampa, which could see a 25 percent drop in cash sloshing through its streets compared to Phoenix last year. And NBC found itself cutting prices for those precious, 30-second spots as it scrambled to sell the last of them in the final days before the big game.

Not to say that it's a stripped-down event. With steep prices for airfare, hotels and game tickets, this is still not a working man's game. Local authorities are predicting 100,000 visitors in Tampa, which still counts about 250 related events around the game. But the big Playboy party, among many others, has been cancelled because of belt, er, robe tightening. Maxim's guest list is about 1,200, or half the size of last year's.

A double-whammy has hit Tampa this year. It seems the biggest sporting event isn't immune from a down economy, as some had predicted. The NFL is putting the best face on it, saying the Super Bowl remains an important, shared experience for the country. "I don't believe the luster is taken off at all," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters.

The other blow is that the lowly Arizona Cardinals scrapped their way into the championship, the franchise's first visit to the big game. We all like a Cinderella story, but Cinderella doesn't spend like her step sisters. Ticket prices dropped immediately after the Cardinals made it into the game, reports Cliff Mark of online broker "It's a smaller market, an isolated market, and a city that isn't as infatuated with their sports," he says.

Here's a look at some of the hard dollars for this year's game:

$500—The unusually low price that the NFL sold a slice of tickets in a nod to the hard economy. Those 1,000 seats went to Pittsburgh Steeler and Arizona season ticket holders. But most prices were up. Some 17,000 sold for $1,000 each, compared last year's top price of $900. Most tickets sold for $900 instead of $800 last year.

$2,540—The current average for a scalped seat through That's way off last year's average price of $4,704. The average was $5,010 just two weeks ago, while sports-rabid Philadelphia was favored to beat the Cardinals.

$2.9 million—The average selling price for 30-second commercial spots. That's up from last year's $2.7 million charged by Fox, but down from the NBC's original asking price this year of $3 million. The network still stands to rake in about $200 million from the ads.

$50 million—One estimate of how much Americans spend on food and snacks in the four days leading up to a Super Bowl Sunday. Parties encourage us to consume more food that day than any other day except Thanksgiving. The Monday following reportedly shows a 20 percent spike in antacid sales.

$875—Admission to the third annual Saturday Night Spectacular, a party co-hosted by and Hollywood star Kevin Costner and featuring his band as one of the performers. That ticket price is half of last year's. The sixth annual Leather & Laces party cut its price by 45 percent to $275.

$25—The price of a game program. Last year it was $20. Vendors expect to sell 30,000 at the game and to fans in the hometowns of the two teams and elsewhere. The price in 1980 was $2.50.

$150 million—The forecasted take for the Tampa Bay area from hospitality and tourism, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. That's down from about $200 million for Phoenix last year and Miami the year before, but up from the $140 million windfall for Tampa in 2001 when it hosted Super Bowl XXXVII. For their part, local authorities are predicting a total economic impact of $300 million.

$1 million—The approximate cost to the City of Tampa for police, ambulance and traffic control. The figure includes $50,000 to pretty up medians and other areas frequented by tourists. The NFL will reimburse the city for about $300,000 of police, fire and transportation costs.