A partial power failure at the recent Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans caused a 35 minute blackout in approximately half of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome . The LA Times has labelled this incident a most ‘embarrassing’ glitch at the nation’s ‘most watched’ sport event. With over 100 million viewers nation-wide and televised in over 180 countries, the match between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Fransisco 49ers was paused in the second half and the CBS broadcast went off the air for the majority of the outage. Inside the stadium, escalators and eftpos machines also stopped working. The power outage was found to have been caused by a faulty relay device that had been installed months prior to the big game, ironically to protect the stadium from blackouts resulting from cable failures. As CNN News reports, the question of who is to blame has come down to SMG, the company that manages the Superdome; S&C Electric Co., the manufacturers of the relay device; or Entergy, the company that installed it.
Electrical engineering expert Professor Mehraeen told the LA Times that it is “not unusual for [relay devices] to have problems...they can be unpredictable, despite national testing standards recommended by manufacturers.” Perhaps then the issue is the apparent lack of risk analysis and contingency planning. The power blackout had a significant impact on advertisers who, according to marketing expert Josh Leibowitz, paid up to US$38 million per 30 second ad slot during the broadcast of the game.
With the mass popularity amongst spectators of user-generated content platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, the 35-minute pause in the game saw over 230, 000 tweets per minute. This time, according to Leibowitz, could have been used by the event organisers to generate valuable spectator feedback on advertising initiatives, or to inform viewers of what was being done to rectify the situation. Some advertisers engaged in the online banter, with Audi tweeting a ‘swipe’ at Mercedes-Benz, after whom the Superdome is officially named. As CNN News reports, spectators’ tweets which focussed on the blackout may have generated negative publicity for the stadium, and ignited fears in the host city for future bids for the Super Bowl.
According to officials from Entergy, the faulty device has since been removed and replaced, however the ramifications of the Superdome’s apparent lack of contingency planning and the missed opportunities for the games’ advertisers cannot be undone.