NFL: A Look Ahead To Pro Bowl Weekend And The Non-Event It Proves To Be

This weekend, players from the AFC and NFC, voted for by players, coaches and fans, come together to face off against one another
13:35, 03 Feb 2022

The NFL’s all-star game takes place this Sunday at the Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, as players from the AFC and NFC, voted for by players, coaches and fans, come together to face off against one another.

The inception of the Pro Bowl in 1951 allowed the best players from all the teams in the two national conferences, National Football League and American Football League to showcase their abilities in a one-off match at the end of the season. Then in 1966, the AFL merged with the NFL to create a singular league that would cover the entire of the United States and the former divisions would be rebranded to become the National Football Conference and American Football Conference. It was always seen as a fantastic event and something that truly mattered to the players who wanted to be the best of the best and rivalries were rife.

Nowadays, it’s a lacklustre affair with players who aren’t bothered nor are they particularly interested in being selected in the first place. You constantly see players pulling out of the event through injuries that have carried over into the off-season or perhaps they just don’t want to take part due to the risk of getting injured. 

This year is no different with the retiring Tom Brady, Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams and legendary Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner all opting out of this year's event. The skills showdown often throws up some good entertainment, bringing out the competitive nature within some of the league's biggest talents but all in all the game itself is a dud. However, we won’t miss the opportunity to show you Larry Allen bench pressing 100kg an incredible 43 times.

It begs the question as to why they persist with the event. The answer, like it is with most commercialised products, is money. Sponsorship revenue is the biggest factor in continuing the non-event that is the Pro Bowl. 

Data from Statista.com demonstrates the steady but consistent increase in sponsorship revenue which hit a record high last year of $1.6bn, having broken the billion mark in 2012. Conversely, the viewing figures have been up and down but generally appear to be on a downward trend. In 2020, approximately 8 million people tuned in to watch the game unfold. This a decrease on the figures of a decade ago where approximately 12.5 million had spent their Sunday afternoon watching the event. 

Between 2018 and 2020, viewing figures dropped by nearly 800k so after this year's showdown it will be interesting to see if the downward trend continues but also keep an eye on the sponsorship revenue. 

These two must correlate once again at some point as you can’t spend more and more money on something that is attracting less of an audience each year.

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