NFL Picks Katy Perry to Get Young People to Watch the Super Bowl

After it had been rumored about for a month, the NFL and Katy Perry officially announced that the pop star has been chosen as Super Bowl XLIX’s halftime performer. Perry is a fairly predictable choice, as pop singers including Beyoncé and Madonna have performed in recent years. Perry confirmed that she will be performing for the biggest television audience of the year on Twitter and said that she’s “already been testing out ideas” for her performance.

Later a video was released by Pepsi, which sponsors the Super Bowl, showing Perry experimenting with some of her ideas and featuring her cartoony aesthetic. There’s a unicorn, kittens, and lots of glitter involved, and although the video is a parody, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see some of those items actually appear during her performance.

The NFL’s decision to go with Perry, who has still been topping the charts this year with singles from 2013’s Prism, reflects a trend of the organization preferring younger performers to more venerable, classic rock acts that have graced the Super Bowl stage in the past. Last year, the young R&B-influenced pop singer Bruno Mars performed for the most-watched halftime show in history, with 115.3 million viewers, according to Billboard. That was more people than watched the actual game itself, which averaged at 111.5 million viewers and was also the biggest audience in Super Bowl history.

In the past, the NFL has focused on appealing to its older male audience by booking classic rock acts for the halftime show, but in the last four years, there has been a shift toward younger, flashier, poppier performers. Before Mars, there was Beyoncé, Madonna, and the Black Eyed Peas as the football game’s entertainment.

While it might seem like the NFL is missing its mark with these choices, as the stereotypical middle-aged male football lover is definitely not into Katy Perry, the organization isn’t even really courting football fans when choosing these performers. Football fans are already going to watch the big game, so the halftime show is about seducing other viewers into tuning in, even if it’s only for the halftime performance.

Advertisers are also willing to pay a lot more — even more than the exorbitant rates they already shell out for Super Bowl slots — in order to reach a younger audience. Young people are less likely to pay attention to the game itself than older people and more likely to watch in a group, essentially consuming the Super Bowl as a social activity, according to research from Media Life magazine. Booking a pop star like Perry will get a lot more young people to watch and be blasted with commercials than would halftime acts of old like Tom Petty or the Rolling Stones, even if those performers probably appeal more to the core audience of people actually watching the football game.

The fact that more people tuned in to see Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform last year than watched the actual game itself shows that the NFL is on the right track with this tactic. Now we’ll see if Perry can use unicorns and kittens to break that 115.3 million record.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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