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Posted by Meghan Fuller Hanna

This year's Super Bowl will have a high fiber content, and I'm not talking about the chili I'm planning to make for the big game.

All the glamour and excitement of Super Bowl XLII will unfold Sunday night at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, a stadium I profiled last year in the pages of Lightwave. (See "Air-blown fiber is an MVP at University of Phoenix Stadium".)

I had the pleasure of interviewing Cardinals IT director Mark Feller, who told me that the stadium features 71,000 feet of air-blown multimode fiber and 30,000 feet of air-blown singlemode fiber. Sumitomo Electric Lightwave is the supplier. This fiber infrastructure supports the team's internal communications needs and provides the backbone over which live games are broadcast to the world.

But network traffic does not begin or end with the television broadcast. I've done a little research, and it turns out the Super Bowl generates a veritable bonanza of online traffic, most of which, presumably, rides over a fiber network at some point in its journey from origination to destination. For football fans, the Internet has become a big part of their pre- and post-game activities.

This year's Super Bowl is expected to drive 2.4 million high-definition (HD) television units, generating some $2.2 billion in sales, reveals the third annual "Sports and Technology" survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Sports Video Group. That's hardly surprising. But what is surprising is just how many of the respondents plan to watch the game on more than one screen.

"We have long known that the Super Bowl influences HDTV unit sales," notes Tim Herbert, CEA's senior director of market research. "We are now finding ties to other technologies consumers use to enhance their Super Bowl experience. This year, 18% of consumers watching the game expect to have a laptop PC nearby to check stats, IM with friends, or check betting lines," he says. "Another 12% plan to use their mobile phone for the same purpose."

And this interactivity does not end with the fourth quarter. According to the CEA, 57% of HDTV owners say they will go online after the game to view memorable moments or TV commercials.

In fact, the Super Bowl now generates a flurry of online activity even after the last of the confetti has rained down on the triumphant team. Last year's Super Bowl advertisers saw a collective 50% increase in Web traffic the day after the game, from 8.5 million unique visitors on Super Bowl Sunday to 12.7 million unique visitors on Monday, notes The Nielsen Company in its "2008 Guide to the Super Bowl." FedEx saw the biggest jump in Internet traffic last year; its Web site was below the reporting cutoff on Super Bowl Sunday (the sample size was insufficient for a reliable projection), but jumped to a whopping 1.1 million visitors the next day, report Nielsen analysts.

And the pundits, once dedicated to analyzing the success or failure of TV ads in isolation, are now examining the level of integration between an advertiser's TV ads and its presence in online search and social websites like MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube.

"Advertisers are becoming savvier about creating online buzz around events," says Peter Hershberg, managing partner at Reprise Media, which is conducting its fourth annual Super Bowl Search Marketing Scorecard. "Unlike many lost in the previous years, marketers are expected to finally use search and social media sites to capitalize on the excitement and brand awareness generated by their ads in the big game."

So if you play your cards right, it sounds like $2.7 million--the reported price for a 30-second ad--buys you more than it used to . . .

In my research, I uncovered a few more fun facts about this year's big game, and since it's Friday afternoon and--let's face it--we're all just counting down the minutes until the big weekend, I thought I'd share them here:

*Scarborough Sports Marketing estimates that 63% of Patriots fans in Boston have a broadband Internet connection.

*According to a Harris Interactive survey sponsored by The Workforce Institute and Kronos Inc., 1.5 million U.S. adults may call in sick to work the day after the Super Bowl, and an additional 4.4 million employees say they may arrive late. "Super Bowl-related absences could be particularly striking for organizations with a high population of Gen X and Gen Y employees," says the report, "as the majority of employed adults who say they may call in sick the day after the Super Bowl are males and females between the ages of 18-34 years."

*I can't argue with the results of this national consumer survey commissioned by Comcast. When asked who would look best in HD at the Super Bowl, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the most popular choice among six players, garnering 27% of the vote. (Personally, I think Tom Brady would look good in any and all media, but I'm admittedly a little biased.)

*And here's something I bet you didn't know: The Hass Avocado Board estimates that Americans will eat 49.5 million pounds of avocados on Game Day, enough to cover University of Phoenix Stadium end zone to end zone in more than 19 feet of avocados. In an unrelated study, The Nielsen Company found that tortilla chips were the most popular snack food during last year's Super Bowl, with a 29% sales increase and a $13.4 million incremental sales boost. Hence the need for 49.5 million pounds of avocados, I guess. Still, that's a lot of guacamole.

Well, that's all I've got. Have a great weekend, everyone. I'll see you back here on Tuesday. (Just kidding, Stephen.)


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The Lightwave editorial staff uses The Lightwave Blog to share their thoughts on optical communications and whatever else might be the current topic of conversation from cubicle to cubicle. Feel free to add your own opinions.

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave, which makes him responsible for the editorial aspects of the Lightwave franchise. A technology journalist since 1982, he once had his job duties described as "gets paid to tick off advertisers ".

Meghan Fuller is senior editor of Lightwave. She has degrees from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, and the University of Delaware and is a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation.