Culture 4 minutes to read

It happens every year.

Some company, desperate to create a name for themselves and a memorable product, will use sex as a marketing tool during the Super Bowl. This may happen during the first quarter, before the halftime show (or during), or at the end of the game while confetti flutters down from the rafters. But mark my words—it will happen.

The connection between sports and sex has existed for a long, long time. This year, approximately 115 million Americans will watch the big game that will contain roughly 110 advertisements. That’s nearly a full hour of advertising content. Now you know why the game feels so long! These ads now sell for over $5 million a pop for a 30-second spot. That’s $167K per second!

Advertisers know that roughly 60 percent of the Super Bowl audience is men. That’s a crowd of nearly 70 million male brains that are triggered by sexual stimulus faster than anything else this world can offer. So advertisers think: why not take advantage of the opportunity and play to the desires of the crowd?

Interestingly enough, research has found that Super Bowl ads using sex to sell have, on average, a 9 percent lower approval rating than other commercials. Meanwhile, advertisements featuring puppies, horses, and other members of the animal kingdom continue to dominate the Top 10 reviewed commercials during the big game.

In spite of this research reality, the draw to explicit, racy content is simply too strong for some companies to avoid. Somewhere during the big game, the content rating will increase from PG family-level entertainment to borderline R-rated material.

This presents a significant challenge for men and women seeking to walk in purity and avoid the trap of sexually compulsive behavior. So, for those of us who want to enjoy the Super Bowl without guilt or remorse, how can we approach the game with wisdom? Here are four ways, or four downs (football-speech) that will allow you to follow the game responsibly:

1st Down: Downplay Commercial Time

At many Super Bowl parties I have attended, half the crowd or more has little vested interest in the actual game. They come for the food, the company, and quite often the commercials. I have hosted parties where someone will routinely say, “Turn it up, it’s time for commercials!” While many of the commercials can have great humor or innovative ideas, this draws everyone’s attention to the TV at the exact time when questionable content is most likely to appear.  

How could you move the attention away from the commercials? Use commercials as a time to start up a conversation, or refill your food plate. If you like to have games or friendly contests during the Super Bowl, don’t focus on the content of commercials. Adding up how many times the announcer mentions “Deflategate” or “Jimmy Garoppolo” keeps the attention on the game and not the advertisements.

2nd Down: Prep Conversation Starters

Rather than zoning in on the TV during commercials, why not use this as a time to start up a conversation with a friend or family member? This can be especially helpful with your kids. Their natural inclination is to be absorbed in a screen. But you can use the commercial time to direct their attention to another topic of interest. This can be a creative way to turn away from the TV without making a big deal of your actions. So, think ahead about what kind of conversations you could bring up with friends or family and pull them out when necessary.

3rd Down: Lead By Example

While the first two ideas are more covert strategies to help avoid unnecessary sexual content, this idea may require courage. If you are at a gathering of people who don’t share your value for purity and integrity, turning away from explicit content could draw attention to yourself. But, actions speak louder than words. Rather than watching a questionable commercial and saying, “That’s not appropriate—kids are watching,” take the lead to turn away or leave the room. If others question your behavior, be honest and simply say, “I don’t need that kind of content in my brain.” As you do this, others will have the opportunity to consider their own actions. Your spouse may notice your actions and appreciate your integrity. This always helps!

This one is also particularly necessary if you have young boys. Don’t tell them to turn away while you watch. Lead the way and show them that just because something is on TV doesn’t mean we need to see it.

4th Down: Stay Offline Post-Game

Hopefully, the research data will lead to fewer and fewer commercials with explicit content and more commercials with puppies. Eventually, advertisers will get the message that sex doesn’t always sell. At the same time, however, marketing research has found that the use of internet pornography soars after a major sporting event, particularly among those who didn’t like the outcome of the game. For this reason, clickbait and banner ads may be especially sexual in nature after the Super Bowl, as companies try to capitalize on the discontent of a fanbase. So, don’t buy into it. When the big game is over, stay offline. Get ready for your work week. Play with your kids. Take a walk with your wife. Go to the gym and burn off the calories you just consumed. Being aware and having a plan can help you avoid a potentially triggering situation.

I hope you enjoy the Super Bowl, if you watch. I hope your team wins, if they are playing. But most of all, I hope your Sunday afternoon is filled with friends, laughter, and good memories.

Game time!

The views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not reflect an official position of Pure Desire Ministries, except where expressly stated.

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Nick Stumbo

Nick is the Executive Director for Pure Desire. He has been in ministry leadership for 18 years. He was in pastoral ministry at East Hills Alliance Church in Kelso, Washington, for 14 years. Nick has a Bachelor in Pastoral Studies from Crown College, an MDiv from Bethel Seminary, and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). He has authored two books, Setting Us Free and Safe: Creating a Culture of Grace in a Climate of Shame.

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