The Super Bowl ends when two grinning players sneak up behind their winning coach and dump a vat of Gatorade on his head. But the televised Super Bowl extravaganza runs on paid advertisements for beer and cars. In 2015, for example, car companies bought 12 separate commercial spots at a cost of $4.5 million for every 30 seconds. But now we must ask, “Are Millennials bringing America to the point of peak beer, peak cars, and peak football?”
Back in the early 1990s when Joe Montana fired the ball across the goal line, 70 percent of 18-29 year olds chose beer as their favorite adult drink. That number has plunged by over 40 percent. In Montana’s day, just 13 percent of young adults liked liquor. Now nearly as many Millennials reach for liquor as beer. Wine, too, has drawn young adults, who drink 42 percent of the 900 million gallons sold in the U.S. each year. “Peak beer” does not mean sobriety. It means that beer companies should acquire their competitors across the aisle in the liquor store.
While auto sales have been scorching (17.5 million cars in 2015), the Millennials may slam the brakes in the years ahead. They’re not so interested in hitting the open road. In the early 1980s when Terry Bradshaw fired his last touchdowns, over 90 percent of 18-year olds could flash a driver license. By 2008 that number slipped to just 65 percent. Between Uber, Lyft, and the urge to stay at home to play video games, young people are buying fewer cars than their elders. People aged 75 and older are more likely to buy a car than those 18 to 34!
Though I’m a football fan and have been privileged to share the lecture stage with legends like Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw and Mike Ditka, I’ll let others debate whether stories of head injuries will discourage Millennials from watching games and lead to “peak football.”
But from a business point of view, beer and auto executives should be nervous. Like the unsuspecting coach with poor peripheral vision who doesn’t see those stealthy players hoisting up a vat of Gatorade, something wet and uncomfortable may be sneaking up on them.