The story has been written on what happened between the lines during the big game, but what about the commercials? The NFL made some interesting claims about the Super Bowl’s effect on couples and AJ Wiborg looked at the data.
One of the more discussed commercials during Super Bowl 50 was the NFL’s own “Super Bowl Babies Choir“ which, for those who missed the multiple commercials the NFL ran, features children who were supposedly the product of a post-Super Bowl win baby-making boom singing Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”.
“Data suggests 9 months after a Super Bowl victory, winning cities see a rise in births,” reads the text, and then goes on to inform us: “They’re called Super Bowl Babies.”
Set aside for a moment the creepiness of having children sing about their very own conceptions – to say nothing of who calls these babies this and why they capitalize “Babies.” Does the commercial’s basic premise, i.e. that a Super Bowl victory leads to a baby boom, even hold? The widely held belief that major social events result in increased birth rates nine months later has been debunked on multiple occasions: the supposed baby booms following the Great New York City Blackout of 1965 and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City, for example, were shown to be urban legends.
Giving the league all the deference on its analysis that we feel it deserves, we decided to look at the data ourselves.
Not all states publish data on monthly and annual birth rates at both the state and county level. Because of this, we chose two available datasets to review the NFL’s claim that the team that wins the Super Bowl sees an increase in local births months later. In each case, we used both the actual number of births as well as the share of total births for October and November in the year before, year of, and the year after the Super Bowl was won. (The share was used to take away the effects of year-on-year increases in birth rates). This data is represented on the gray and yellow lines showing the monthly shares.
On January 26, 2003 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, based in Hillsborough County, Florida, beat the Oakland Raiders to win Super Bowl XXXVII. As the charts below show, while there was a significant increase in births for the State of Florida overall, the births for Hillsborough county, however, remained stagnant between 2002 and 2003 before increasing significantly in 2004.
On February 2, 2013 the Seattle Seahawks, who reside in King County, beat the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl XLVIII. As the graph below shows, there was a significant decrease in births for the months of October and November in the whole State of Washington from 2012 to 2013. The data for King County, shown in the second graph, depict a similar significant decrease in births.
While the NFL might have created a catchy commercial, the data suggests that the basic premise behind the commercial is flawed: There appears to be nothing more than random statistical variation. If anything, the data might even suggest that for cities experiencing Super Bowl runs, fewer children are conceived, perhaps thanks to people being distracted from such endeavors by the Super Bowl and the playoffs leading up to it.
Follow AJ on Twitter @AJ Wiborg.