This Super Bowl will feature the Carolina Panthers facing the Denver Broncos. Who won't be there? The New England Patriots.
And just what sunk the Patriots? Was it Deflategate? Old stories about videoing rivals? Coach Bill Belichick's reputation as the person in the NFL most likely to become a Star Wars Sith lord?
Despite all of that, what it apparently took was Microsoft Surface tablets. OK, so the players had a lot to do with the outcome, but Microsoft's hardware had a hand in the defeat. The teams depend on the devices to see real-time coverage of plays so they can make decisions for the rest of the game. At a crucial point, the Patriots lost the ability to see what was happening, even though the Broncos didn't.
Microsoft claimed that the problem wasn't with its hardware, but the network. They had a technician on the field. Maybe he was waiting for an answer from phone support in India.
OK, who did Bill Gates have money on?
Maybe there should be two coin tosses in football games now: one to decide who kicks off initially and a second to see who gets the functioning tablets and network.
Product placement is an expensive undertaking in which a company pays to have its product or service used during a movie or TV show or ... sporting event. The idea is that the association with famous people will entice far less famous people to spend their hard-earned dollars for the same drink or car or computing device, with or without operating network.
In Microsoft's case, the use of the Surface during NFL games is part of a product placement deal that reportedly cost Microsoft $400 million in 2013. Have they paid more since then? Could be.
And what's the ROI on publicly being associated with a massive screw-up during a live sporting event? A whole lot less than zero.
Most product placement is done in controlled circumstances. If the movie hero is about to race off in a Ford or Toyota or Yugo, you can bet that if it stalls, the crew shoots the scene again. Same with television. When companies pay hefty amounts, Hollywood studios are really, really anxious to make them look good.
But in a sporting event, you're under the clock. Things have to work first time, every time, or else everyone is going to know that they didn't. And as BuzzFeed reporter Matt Zeitlin noted, even when they do work, there's a good chance that TV announcers will call them iPads.
Some companies get no respect. And spotty wireless reception.