Football's final weekend is upon us. And that means millions of flat-screen TVs will be glued to the NFL's championship game on Sunday.
Last year's matchup set viewership records, as 111 million people tuned in to NBC to watch the game. Judging by advertising spending, this year should pull in even bigger numbers. CBS sold its 30-second spots at $3.8 million a piece, up from $3.5 million the year before.
But the Super Bowl means big business for more than just the NFL and broadcast networks. There are plenty of companies gearing up to compete with one another on Sunday, too. Here's a look at a few that will be facing off this weekend.
The wing wars
Believe it or not, Americans are expected to eat 1.23 billion chicken wings over Super Bowl weekend. The National Chicken Council says that wing sales noticeably spike at grocery stores starting the week before the Super Bowl. And America's appetite for those deep-fried delicacies stays strong through at least basketball's March Madness.
That kind of demand pits fast-food companies against one another on Super Bowl weekend like no other time. Yum! Brands' (NYSE:YUM) Pizza Hut, for example, will sell about 5 million wings on football's big day. But rival delivery giant Domino's Pizza won't be too far behind. The company expects to sell about 2.5 million wings alongside 11 million slices of pizza this weekend, for an overall 80% increase over a typical Sunday.
But the eventual winner of the wing wars might be a surprise newcomer. McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) has been considering adding wings to its menu for some time. The fast-food dynasty tested out the wing concept in a few Chicago locations this month, after a successful run in Atlanta last year. If the Golden Arches does decide to roll out wings to all 14,000 U.S. locations, it's a safe bet that it will end up dominating the wing trade.
The pop battle
Everybody loves to root for the underdog. And this year, SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA) gets to play that role. The company produces an at-home, do-it-yourself soda machine that it thinks could eventually upend the $30 billion U.S. soda market. The stakes get even bigger than that. Soda represents about 25% of the entire beverage market.
SodaStream, a tiny $1 billion upstart, purchased some commercial airtime on TV's most expensive stage this year. The company aims to take on perennial favorites Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) with that spot.
The $4 million that it costs to buy a commercial on the big day will be a stretch for SodaStream's advertising budget. But it's more like a rounding error for Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which both spend upward of $3 billion a year on marketing. Still, SodaStream is game for the risk, figuring that you miss 100% of the shots that you don't take.
The great beer divide
And there's another clash that will be playing out during the commercial breaks, this time between generations of beer drinkers and within one company. Anheuser-Busch InBev has exclusive beer advertising rights to the game. The beer giant will use a total of 4.5 minutes of airtime mostly to promote its popular Budweiser brand. InBev also hopes to successfully introduce new products, like Budweiser Black Crown and Beck's Sapphire, to millions of thirsty consumers.
But according to Advertising Age, debates have been raging for years inside InBev's marketing department about just how prominently to feature those Clydesdale horses in Super Bowl ads. On the one hand, the Clydesdales have a long history of association with the Budweiser brand, tapping in particularly well to consumers' nostalgia. And yet the horses do little to appeal to Millennials, who are a growing force in the market. InBev has been working to boost the Budweiser brand's appeal to these younger beer drinkers, with mixed success. This year the Clydesdales might have won out. They are set to return to a starring role in a Bud spot on Sunday.
Just a good game
Overall, I don't expect a blowout in any of these matchups. But that doesn't mean there won't be some entertaining battles to watch. Keep an eye on the wings, soda, and beer this Sunday. And don't forget to enjoy the game.