Why chicken wings dominate Super Bowl snack time

This upcoming Sunday is the biggest sports day of the year in the United States: The championship game for the professional American Football league. The entire country grinds to a halt.

The most famous secondary effect of the game is the commercials. So many people watch the game that television advertisement costs are the highest for the Super Bowl, which means that companies will produce spectacular ads specifically for the Super Bowl, which means that more people watch the Super Bowl just for the ads.

Another secondary effect of the Super Bowl is the spike in chicken wing sales. The United States chicken industry even issues an Annual Chicken Wing Report. NPR explains how the chicken wing became the dominant snack food for the Super Bowl.

Bonus viewing: A Guide to American Football.

Comments (13)
  1. Mott555 says:

    I don't think I could ever be friends with someone who watches TV just to see the commercials.

    [Would you be friends with someone who bought computer magazines just for the ads? -Raymond]
  2. ChiefInspectorClouseau says:

    Thanks for posting this: it reminded me that I need to go get some wings early tomorrow before the grocery store sells out!

  3. Brian_EE says:

    Some theme music while you are enjoying your chicken wings: http://www.youtube.com/watch

  4. Jim says:

    poor chickens, good people are always got screwed!!

  5. davep says:

    It seems that a lot (most?) of the ads are run normally after the superbowl. I bet most of them get onto youtube pretty-quick. I susepct that the "watch it for ads" is a bit overhyped.

  6. Brian G. says:

    @davep It's less common now to watch the game for the ads than it used to be because of YouTube and the like, but it certainly was a thing for a few years while the quality of the commercials was high, but streaming internet video was not yet commonplace.

    Many ads now are even posted online before the Super Bowl happens. I tend to wait a while and see which ones have staying power before bothering to watch any of them.

  7. Ken in NH says:


    With the exception of a few subscriber (i.e. cable or satellite) channels, every channel and every show is entertainment with the purpose of advertising to the audience. Most have a division between the entertainment and the inducement. Many have inducements built in (e.g. product placements). Some are mainly inducements that happen to be (or try at least try to be) entertaining such as most ads during that event named for a superlative concave structure. So what is the exact ratio of inducement to entertainment that triggers your disdain and derision?

  8. RonV says:

    A point of order.

    It's not the American Football league, it's the National Football League (NFL). There is the National Conference and the American Conference.

    The original American Professional Football Association was formed back in 1920 and renamed to the National Footbal League in 1922.

    The American Footbal League was formed back in 1960 by team owners who had been denied a franchise in the original NFL. The 2 leagues were finally merged around 1969 and this lead to the Super Bowl which was a Championship game between the Nation Conference champion team and the American Conference championship team.

  9. Nick says:

    @Ronnie Vernon: It's the league that plays American Football professionally. As opposed to the league that plays Canadian Football or Australian Football or what Americans call Soccer professionally. That's why it's a lowercase L. If you want to be a pedant, point out that other leagues exist that play American football professionally, leaving out the official name of the league further prevents any kind of attention being drawn from that league's strong protection of its brand.

  10. 12BitSlab says:

    @ Ronnie — The first Super Bowl was in 1967, so it pre-dated the merger.  The merger came about because the AFL was making serious in-roads into the NFL's TV revenue.

  11. Marc K says:

    It's one of marketing's greatest achievements that it convinced people the ads in the super bowl are worth watching.  People are fond of saying they watch the super bowl "just for the commercials".  I've never seen a super bowl ad that made watching the whole thing worthwhile.  I think many people really watch it because everyone else watches it and they want to feel included.

    Now, I am guilty of buying Computer Shopper magazines just for the ads.  This was back before online shopping and the prices in those ads were a lot better than the local stores (which were largely charging full retail).

  12. davep says:

    Brian G."It's less common now to watch the game for the ads than it used to be because of YouTube and the like, but it certainly was a thing for a few years while the quality of the commercials was high, but streaming internet video was not yet commonplace."

    It would be interesting to track the history in an objective way. As far as I can guess, it sort-of became a "thing" with the Apple 1984 ad (which wasn't aired outside of the superbowl). How many of the ads where "high quality"? How many of the "high quality" ads were not played after the superbowl? Does anybody watch the superbowl just to see the "Bud Bowl" type ads?

    As a general phenomena, I suspect it's very overhyped and much less of a "thing" than all the hype indicates.

  13. jmac_the_man says:

    @Nick –

    The name of the sport played by the NFL isn't "American Football." It's called "Gridiron Football," which is generally shortened to "football" in the US.

    Similarly, people would take offense if I called the sport played by the English Premier League "European Football." That sport is called "Association Football." It's generally shortened to a language-appropriate translation of "football" in places where it is the most popular sport with "football" in the name and generally shortened to a language-appropriate translation of "soccer" where a different sport called "football" is more popular.

    ["Gridiron football" is a family of sports, of which American football and Canadian football are two popular forms. -Raymond]

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