Economist Syon Bhanot Explains Lavish Super Bowl Spending

Assistant Professor of Economics Syon Bhanot

USA Today: The average American will spend $81.17 on the Super Bowl. How about you?

If you think this Sunday's Super Bowl is lavish based on free-spending advertisers and the multimillion-dollar salaries of the NFL's stars, consider the business generated by viewing parties.

This year, Americans’ Super Bowl spending is expected to reach $15.3 billion — or an average of $81.17 per fan — on food and beverages, team apparel and accessories, TVs and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation. That's up 8.5% from last year’s $14.1 billion.

The nation's red-hot economy is fueling the gangbusters spending around the matchup between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. With more cash in the pockets, consumers plan to spend heartily for everything from gallons of guacamole to fancy craft beer.

"When people are exuberant about the future, they might have a harder time controlling themselves when (shopping)," said Syon Bhanot, a behavioral economist at Swarthmore College.

Bhanot also cited the current political climate in the U.S. as a driver of all that Pats-and-Eagles-related spending. The Super Bowl — and the hype leading up to it — gives Americans football to preoccupy themselves with.

"There's anticipation, especially for serious fans, of high levels of emotion at that time," Bhanot said. "People want a distraction. By having this additional drama on the side, it allows them to focus their attention on something else."

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Syon Bhanot is an expert in behavioral economics, public policy, experimental economics, decision-making, and public economics. Bhanot earned a B.A. from Princeton University, an M.P.P. from Harvard Kennedy School, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Harvard University. He is a member of the American Economic Association and is an academic affiliate with the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics and the Yale Applied Cooperation Team.