Competing in the Super Bowl may conjure up images of thousands of wealthy tourists spending extravagantly in the host city, benefiting local businesses. However, according to sports economists, the financial returns associated with short-term events such as the Super Bowl or World Cup are largely an illusion. Although the impact is measurable, it is relatively small and can be backed up by solid data. A study of past Super Bowls, including Super Bowl L held at Levi’s Stadium in 2016, indicated that the actual increase in economic activity is typically between $50 million to $150 million—just a fraction of the claimed $400 million to $600 million.
Economics professors, Victor Matheson, Andrew Zimbalist, and J.C. Bradbury, have all spoken out against the exaggerated economic impacts of hosting the Super Bowl. They argue that many visitors simply replace regular tourists, thereby having little impact on overall tourism numbers. Furthermore, the revenue gained from these events may not be reinvested within the local region.
Although hotel rate increases may bring in some additional revenue, the majority of hotel employees do not benefit from these gains. Additionally, cities incur significant expenses associated with managing large-scale events such as the Super Bowl, including expenditures on improving security, transportation, and sanitation.
Despite the questionable economic benefits of hosting the Super Bowl, there may be intangible assets that cannot be easily measured. There is evidence that large-scale events can contribute to happiness and life satisfaction among residents of host cities. However, economists caution against placing too much emphasis on these events as a means of generating substantial economic returns for local businesses.