Super Bowl XXXI is still more than a week away, but Web sites already are sprouting up on the Net to track the annual football championship game and its players.
The idea is not new, but this year marks the biggest rollout yet--just one more indicator of the Web's penetration into America's favorite pastimes. The sites also offer a big moneymaking opportunities for advertisers, who want to tap into the craze as they do on television. Visa for example will debut a commercial during the Super Bowl featuring Bob Dole.
In past years, Super Bowl halftime has been an advertising showcase with never-before-seen commercials that receive as much hype as Hollywood films. This year's matchup, between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers, will be aired on Fox on Sunday, January 26.
"We believe this is the largest single advertising commitment on the Internet today," said Rich LeFurgy, vice president of advertising and marketing for Starwave, of IBM's commitment. "We're seeing many more consumers and business advertisers getting on the Web."
In the spirit of "if you build it they will come," Super Bowl Web sites boast rich content for visitors, with prominent ad placements for sponsors.
The NFL's site is updated daily with news and includes a re-cap of the playoffs, chat room discussions, live interviews with players and a virtual tour of the Superdome in New Orleans. It will also include a live feed of the game.
AudioNet will again provide live audio for superbowl.com's coverage, including press conferences and game feeds. Last year, AudioNet says 32,000 listeners tuned in over the Web. Users can download the free AudioNet software from the company's site. It will also broadcast in Japanese, German, French, and Italian through international broadcasters.
Of course ESPN Sport's Zone, one of the most popular sites on the Net, is stepping up its coverage of the Super Bowl. The site also is run by Starwave. So it seems that Fox and Starwave will be cashing in on most of the Super Bowl ad dollars on and off the Web.
The site boasts ads from the NFL, Visa and Bell South . It also features similar content to the NFL's official site, but has more news and odds on the game.
The online club will offer daily chats with celebrities, live concerts and a live Super Bowl kick-off party. Sports personalities, such as broadcaster Bob Costas, will be commentating live over the Web from the club.