The insular, hyper-capitalist and often obscene world of professional sports seems like it would make an odd staging ground for social commentary. And yet 2015's edition of the annual American football championship showcase, like a terrifying star spangled smash up of the FA cup final, centre court at Wimbledon and Simon Cowell's latest brain fart, was viewed by a record 114 million people. According to the marketing database Nielsen, the preview figures showed that this year was on course to match or better that - for reference, roughly the combined total populations of the UK and France
Then take into account the current vogue for the endless replication of seemingly innocuous details – newsflash, Peyton Manning's little brother is a sourpuss! - and the kind of charade that only sports can provide, like the winners of said US exclusive event being referred to as world champions, and the Super Bowl soon becomes nigh inescapable.
In amongst all of the traditional marketing coups and film trailers that pad out the event every year, something that threatened to be very interesting indeed happened this time around...
Beyoncé's timely, topical and extremely necessary invoking of the spirits of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics has immediately become headline news. The context of such a statement is hugely important and far reaching. The abridged version, however, is that on the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a movement dedicated to the pursuit of social and political parity for black Americans that was unafraid to take a very real fight to the institution, Beyoncé and her supporting cast echoed the Black Panthers' salute.
The message is extremely clear; the work that Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale began fifty years ago remains unfinished in the opinion of some very prominent people. In light of a spate of police killings, including that of 26 year old Mario Woods who was specifically referenced by the backing dancers, there is some credence to be found within that idea.
Elsewhere Coldplay, ostensibly the headliners but surely resigned to a footnote now, made a statement of their own when displaying the LGBTQ community's famous rainbow banner adorned with the words 'Believe in Love'. Considering the testosterone-fuelled, beer soaked crowds people are lead to expect at sports events, not to mention America's reported conservatism when in comes to issues of sexual identity, this was a brave move from Coldplay, who have form in this department and deserve more credit for it.
There we have it then, two recording artists recognized and respected around the world using their time on the world's biggest stage to further a socio-political agenda. While the effectiveness of such statements will only become clear in hindsight and any discussion of suitability of the artists involved will have to wait for another time, the whole episode acts as a timely reminder of the power that mega-celebrities wield to affect change.
It should be considered the responsibility of such "celestial beings" to retain a social conscience, and use prominence to further or reignite important conversations when it may be said that they have stalled in the corridors of power.
Interested in how celebrities can dictate the conversation, especially in our digital age? Last chance to see Follow at FACT.