Super Bowl halftime show features partnership with history

Halftime show news conference
Rihanna sits down with Nadeska Alexis, a music journalist, at the halftime show news conference on Feb. 9. (Ayanna Bronner/MEDILL)

By Ayanna Bronner
Medill Reports

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Apple and the NFL have a long history of advertising together.

Since 1984, when Apple successfully released the first Macintosh commercial, the company has run Super Bowl commercials.

In 1985, for Super Bowl XIX, Apple released “Lemmings” to promote Macintosh Office.

It was a miss, and the company stopped purchasing Super Bowl commercials for a long time.

Apple came back in 1999 for Super Bowl XXXIII, featuring the brilliant HAL commercial, a computer from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

A final attempt at a commercial was made by Apple during Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.

The commercial wasn’t for the company, however. The partnership was technically between Pepsi and iTunes, their popular music streaming service at the time. With less than a year under its belt, iTunes received a lot of attention from this commercial, merely because of a design flaw in the caps of the Pepsi bottles.

Customers found a way to boost their odds of getting a free song, which was supposed to be 1-in-3. It was discovered that tilting the bottle at a certain angle could determine whether it was a winner or not. Over five million free songs were given away through Pepsi’s promotion, far fewer than the 100 million that might have been redeemed.

One thing Pepsi got out of it, though, was becoming a halftime sponsor.

But that changed for the latest Super Bowl – Pepsi decided to give up its possession of the halftime show. For Super Bowl LVII, Apple Music would direct, choose the artist and promote the “most-watched” musical performance.

Rihanna was announced to headline the Super Bowl halftime show two days after Apple Music was announced as the new official sponsor.

Apple Music hit the ground running, becoming heavily involved in the production of the show, which was different from Pepsi’s approach. 

The soda-and-snacks company allowed the NFL to produce the show at its own discretion, according to Steve Brener, the president of Brener Zwikel & Associates, one of the nation’s leading public relations firms.

The partnership with the NFL will allow Apple Music to continue building its prominence by opening up a wider window of competition with streaming services that cater to sports fans.

The NFL will receive $250 million from Apple over five years. If no unforeseen circumstances arise, Apple Music will not see a dent since its expected to reach 110 million subscribers by 2025, according to J.P. Morgan.

The exposure alone increased Rihanna’s streaming rates, even though she didn’t get paid for performing.

In Appleland, Rihanna’s listeners increased by 331%. “Umbrella” re-entered the top song charts in 105 countries, a new record for the 16-year-old song. “We Found Love” charted in 92 countries, and “Work” charted in 50 countries.

In an effort to capitalize on the situation, Rihanna’s brand Fenty Beauty immediately reminded fans on social media that the “MVP” lipstick, which was used by the singer on stage, was available for purchase during the performance, along with sports bras, boxers and mesh tank tops.

Rihanna and Nadeska Alexis
Rihanna speaks about her journey to the Super Bowl stage. (Ayanna Bronner/MEDILL)

Apple Music’s Nadeska Alexis spoke with Rihanna Feb. 9 about the 13-minute halftime show that celebrated her catalog. 

“Musically, I’m feeling open,” Rihanna said. “I’m feeling open to exploring, discovering (and) creating things that are new, things that are different, things that are off — weird — (and)  might not ever make sense to my fans. I just want to have fun with music. That’s one of my main things — I promised myself that I would have fun.”

For Rihanna, the show was important because she incorporated Caribbean culture.

“Representation,” Rihanna said. “Representing for immigrants, representing for my country, Barbados, representing for Black women everywhere. I think that’s really important. That’s key for people to see the possibilities. I’m honored to be here. I’m honored to be doing this this year.”

Similarly to Apple Music, the Oscar-nominated performer was heavily involved in her show. “All of the Lights” even began with Rihanna promoting Fenty Beauty on the stage.

“If it flops or it flies, my name has to stand by that,” Rihanna said.

It surely flew. Twitter erupted when her red flight suit revealed a pregnant belly as she rubbed her stomach on stage.

As a mother, Rihanna was excited to be able to create a legacy for her son, and unborn baby, and to perform a jam-packed concert on the biggest stage.

“It feels like it could’ve only been now,” Rihanna said. “When you become a mom, there’s something that just happens where you feel like you can take on the world, you can do anything, and the Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages in the world, so as scary as that was, because I haven’t been on stage in seven years, there’s something exhilarating about the challenge of it all. It’s important for me to do this this year. It’s important for representation. It’s important for my son to see that.”  

Ayanna Bronner is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.