MONEY

The Shady Story Behind Soaring Super Bowl Ticket Prices

The exterior of University of Phoenix Stadium
Gene Lower—AP The exterior of University of Phoenix Stadium, host of the 2015 Super Bowl, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Allegations of collusion and marketplace manipulation are being thrown around as average asking prices for Super Bowl tickets topped a staggering $9,000 this week.

This wasn’t how we were told things would play out.

Generally speaking, every year, there’s a predictable arc to Super Bowl ticket prices on the secondary market. The market rate for Super Bowl tickets tends to be high (perhaps three times face value) in the days before the AFC and NFC Championship games, and then once it’s clear who will play in the Super Bowl, there’s usually a price spike as fans clamber for the chance to see their team win the title. After this initial wave of purchases subsides, prices tend to drop as Super Bowl Sunday nears and sellers don’t want to get stuck with seats at the last minute.

Understandably, the trajectory and peak for pricing is a little different every year, depending on which teams are squaring off and where the game is being played. Projections for the 2015 Super Bowl’s ticket prices called for seats to be less expensive than usual, supposedly because of “fatigue” among fans of the two teams in the game, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, who have both played and won it all over the past decade.

Yet the price drop almost everyone expected over the past couple of weeks never took place. Soon after the AFC and NFC Championship games ending, asking prices were relatively cheap, with the average ticket selling for around $2,900 and the cheapest tickets available for roughly $1,900. At the start of this week, the average list price was up to $6,500 and the “cheap” seats were at least $4,200.

By Thursday afternoon, $7,100 was the least expensive ticket posted for sale on secondary market sites such as TiqIQ, while StubHub alerted the media that the “current average list price for the Super Bowl is $9,484.37, which is up 282.43% since last year at this time ($2,480.06).”

That’s at the sites that actually had access to tickets. As of midday on Friday, popular secondary ticket exchanges like Vivid Seats and Razor Gator had posted messages to the effect of “Sorry, but we currently have no tickets available for this event.” StubHub listed fewer than 300 seats available for purchase, with asking prices ranging from roughly $7,500 to $40,000. The NFL’s official Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster site listed 109 tickets for sale, with individual seats starting at $6,500. Anyone interested in a pair of seats together would have to pay at least $7,800 per ticket. Face value for Super Bowl tickets ranges from $800 to $1,900.

What caused the ticket supply to shrink and prices to go totally bonkers? In its Thursday release about skyrocketing prices, StubHub accused a handful of unnamed large ticket sellers in control of most of the Super Bowl ticket inventory of colluding with each other and manipulating the marketplace. “A consolidation of supply has allowed sellers to manipulate the marketplace and made it near impossible for any last minute fans to attend the game,” StubHub global head of communications Glenn Lehrman said in the release.

At the start of this week, the explanation for the unexpected rise in prices was that many brokers had been “short-selling” tickets, based on the assumption that the previously established pattern would hold true and prices would fall as Super Bowl Sunday neared. To short-sell tickets, “a broker typically lists tickets in a generic section of the stadium and doesn’t disclose exactly where the seats are until the Wednesday before the game,” as a post by ESPN’s Darren Rovell explained. “The idea for the brokers is to take money from ticket buyers when the tickets are at a higher price after the conference title games, then actually buy the tickets days later as the prices start to come down.”

Apparently, tons of brokers hopped on board this scheme of selling tickets on “spec”—only when the time came to buy actual seats later on as promised, the going prices in the marketplace were far higher than brokers had anticipated. In the investing world, they call that a “short squeeze.”

StubHub says that the collusion of a few large ticket sellers has limited supply to “essentially short-squeeze brokers and make the marketplaces” such as StubHub and VividSeats “buy up the supply at upwards of 4x market value.”

One clear end result is that unless you’re rich or the Mayor of Glendale, Ariz., the host town for this year’s Super Bowl, you’re basically out of luck in terms of getting tickets to the game. Everyday fans are the big losers in all of this. On the other hand, the ticket sellers being accused of rigging the game—the ones who allegedly held back supply and pushed prices skyward—have been cashing in over the past few days.

As for secondary market sites like StubHub and TiqIQ, as well as the smaller brokers whose sales take place on these sites, the results are somewhat muddled. “At the end of the day, many brokers took a big hit from this, while very few made a profit,” TiqIQ’s Chris Matcovitch said in an email. In some cases, the secondary market sites have felt forced to pay far above market rates in order to save face and not have brokers breaking the promise of tickets sold on spec. According to TiqIQ, overall ticket prices on its site have been average as far as Super Bowls go, though the volume of sales is down “significantly.”

“You will be hearing horror stories all weekend,” said Matcovich. “People without tickets, brokers folding, lawsuits, etc.”

So we’re got another NFL scandal on our hands. How surprising.

TIME Media

Why Jay-Z’s New Music Service Won’t Beat Spotify

Celebrites Attend The Miami Heat Vs Brooklyn Nets Game - May 12, 2014
James Devaney—GC Images/Getty Images Jay-Z attends the Miami Heat vs Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center on May 12, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Most people don't want to pay more for higher audio quality

Business mogul Jay-Z has a new acquisition to add to his collection of night clubs, clothing lines and luxury champagnes. The rapper’s company, Project Panther Bidco, is picking up European streaming music service Aspiro for $56 million, according to Reuters.

But while the Oslo-based service has managed to rack up 580,000 paying subscribers in Europe with a Spotify-like service, the company’s bet on high-priced, high-fidelity music streaming isn’t likely to take the world by storm.

Back in October, Aspiro launched Tidal, a new service for the U.S. and U.K. that offers millions of songs in a high-fidelity, lossless FLAC format, with essentially the same audio quality as CDs. Tidal boasts a library similar in scale to Spotify’s, but its tracks are higher in audio quality. That improved quality comes at a price: Tidal costs $19.99 per month, while Spotify’s ad-free version is $9.99 per month.

And if the last 15 years of the music industry’s fortunes tell us anything, it’s that people don’t want to pay more for high-quality audio files.

An entire generation of music lovers have now grown up without being regularly exposed to CD-level audio quality. Whether ripping CDs to create low-fidelity MP3s, downloading compressed audio files off of iTunes or streaming tracks from Spotify, most young music listeners have gotten used to low-bitrate listening. Audio quality on YouTube varies wildly and is often quite poor, but it’s still the most popular way for teenagers to listen to music.

Moreover, convincing people to pay $9.99 per month for music is already a tough sell, let alone $19.99 per month. Only about a fourth of Spotify’s 60 million users pay for the service, and it’s the platform with the largest paid user base by far. The industry may never convince fans to pay $120 per year (or in the case of Tidal, $240 per year) en masse considering that even at the music industry’s peak in 1999, music buyers were only spending $64 per year on songs, according to an analysis by Re/code.

(Read more: 8 Spotify tricks that will change the way you listen to music)

Of course, there is a precedent for a previously price-sensitive market suddenly being flooded with popular premium products. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine convinced millions of consumers that their flimsy iPod earbuds weren’t good enough. They have since created a billion-dollar empire selling expensive Beats headphones that produce higher-quality sound. Like Beats, Tidal will now be helmed by a big-name music star who is also a deft marketer. Perhaps Jay-Z will find a way to make high-fidelity audio cool, too.

But with so many competitors crowding the market and offering, to the layman’s ears, more or less the same product—25 million or so songs that you can stream whenever you want—it’ll be a challenge to lure customers at a higher price. Aspiro and Tidal may find a successful niche among audiophiles, but Jay-Z’s new music service probably won’t unseat the industry’s giants.

TIME

Investors Sink Their Teeth Into Shake Shack’s IPO

Shares of Shake Shack more than doubled on the first day of trading

Shares of Shake Shack more than doubled on the first day of trading Friday, as investors feasted on a chance to get a piece of the New York burger chain before it opens hundreds of additional restaurants in the U.S.

Shake Shack’s stock was trading at around $49 per share early in Friday’s session, a roughly 133% gain above the $21 initial offering price that was set on Thursday evening. The company had initially anticipated a share price in the range of $14 to $16, but investor enthusiasm prompted the company to raise that range by $3 on Wednesday. Shares are trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “SHAK.”

A bet on Shake Shack, a fast-casual restaurant operator with just 63 global locations, is an investment in a company that could one day become the next Chipotle. Those two chains are the model that all other fast-casual chains could one day aspire to achieve. Fast-casual restaurants have menus that are filled with food that consumers perceive as healthier fare than what fast-food competitors sell, but without the table service found at casual dining chains.

Though Shake Shack is growing — generating nearly $79 million in “Shack sales” for the first nine months of 2014 — there are some worries that growth at stores that have been open for at least two years has slowed.

MORE The 17 Most Influential Burgers of All Time

Shake Shack can be seen as more thrilling investment than McDonald’s , which this week saw the resignation of its CEO after a string of poor sales. But the newer chain is also facing stiff competition from other fast-casual burger chains such as Smashburger and Five Guys. And McDonald’s, while it faces major challenges, still booked $4.8 billion in profit last year.

Burger chains are in prime position, at least when it comes to prevailing trends in the restaurant world. Nine billion servings of burgers were ordered at U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets last year, an increase of 3% from 2013, despite weakness in traffic at other restaurants, according to research firm NPD Group. That indicates the burger chains can court rising consumer interest in their core menus.

History was on Shake Shack’s side when it debuted on Friday. The fast-casual chains that have debuted on the market the past decade have reported an average gain of 95% on their first day of trading, according to IPO ETF manager Renaissance Capital. If Shake Shack’s early pop holds until the end of the day, it will have reported the best first-day performance among the seven restaurant chains that have gone public over the last 10 years.

Of the now seven fast-casual chains Renaissance Capital tracked, only Chipotle has been on the stock market for greater than two years. It listed in 2006 and has gained over 3,100% from its IPO price, suggesting investors are willing to place a bet on what could be the next huge concept in the category.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Body Image

Bye, Bye, Barbie: 2015 Is the Year We Abandon Unrealistic Beauty Ideals

Cali Girl Barbie waves from the front seat of a Chevy SSR du
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Cali Girl Barbie waves from the front seat of a Chevy

As Barbie sales figures continue to drop, unrealistic ideals are losing clout both in the toy and fashion world

It may be time for Mattel to roll out Retirement Barbie. Friday morning, the toymaker announced that the doll’s sales dropped 16% in 2014, marking Barbie’s third consecutive year of falling earnings.

“The reality is, we just didn’t sell enough Barbie dolls,” CEO Bryan Stockton explained to investors last January, following Mattel’s disappointing 13% drop for 2013. The decline of the company’s premier product led in part to Stockton’s resignation on Monday. But a corporate shakeup might not be enough to counteract the almost 56-year-old doll’s waning allure. The problem might not be sales strategies, but rather the doll and the impossibly slim-body ideals she represents.

The push for more realistic, “body positive” images of girls has been gaining momentum over the past year and not just in toys. In 2014, Barbie sales plummeted, while a doll with an average woman’s proportions gained viral success; full-bodied models were integrated into high-fashion campaigns without fanfare; e-retailer ModCloth announced an anticipated doubling of its sales after introducing plus sizes; the single “All About That Bass,” which celebrates curvy bodies, became such a commercial success that, no, you will never get it out of your head; and Kim Kardashian’s famously ample butt broke the Internet.

After decades of false starts, maybe we are finally ready to move away from unattainably slim ideals.

Fashion: Plus-Size Integration Isn’t a Passing Trend
When we think of lingerie ads, winged Victoria’s Secret Angels flutter through our minds. But in November alone, three high-fashion institutions displayed a fuller understanding of feminine beauty.

Seductively posed in a rubber leotard, Candice Huffine debuted as the first plus-size model to be featured in Pirelli’s prestigious calendar in December:

A Vogue online gallery featuring sexy lingerie starred women with F- rather than B-cup sizes. “Going into this, we assumed that the beautiful, delicate, lacy bras that we all prefer would only be available in the smaller cup sizes, but we were thrilled to find a real wealth of options for a huge variety of body shapes,” editor Jorden Bickham tells TIME in an email.

And Calvin Klein used Myla Dalbesio in its “Perfectly Fit” underwear campaign. Dalbesio, a size 10, told Elle, “It’s not like [Calvin Klein] released this campaign and were like ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus-size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction. It’s not a separate section for plus-size girls.” (This interview incited misappropriated backlash against CK when the Twitterverse thought Dalbesio was incorrectly cast under the “plus size” category — she wasn’t.)

While the Internet reacted to the seamless integration of fuller-bodied models into these campaigns, the models were presented by designers without fanfare.

“There were no big tambourines, no big calling out of the size thing,” Emme, widely regarded as the first plus-size supermodel (even though she eschews the moniker), tells TIME. “It’s just so old. Saying, ‘Oh she’s plus-size, yippee!’ and making a big deal of that.”

Tess Holliday

Although there was certainly fanfare when size-22 model Tess Holliday was signed to MiLK Model Management last week — making her the first model of her size to ever be represented by a major agency.

“It was unheard of, I never even tried to get with an agency,” Holliday, 29, tells TIME. “One of my friends even said, ‘Isn’t it crazy that you’re in the news for being the biggest plus-size model when you’re the true size of a plus-size woman?’” Holliday says the average plus-size model is between size 8 and 10, even though the average plus-size woman is bigger. “There has always been an issue with [designers] using smaller plus-size models, and if they wanted one who was a little bit bigger or curvier, they would pad her because they said they couldn’t find good quality models above a size 16.”

In the past, Holliday was barred from castings because of her size. But in the past week, Holliday says at least designers who refused to work with her in the past have now called to book her for a job. “If they want me then they’ll pay for it.”

Many of Holliday’s critics complain that she sets an unhealthy example for women, but the model notes that she is active, has a trainer, and works out at least four times a week. It should also be noted that just as skinniness does not connote healthiness, being a plus size doesn’t connote unhealthiness.

While Holliday is currently an anomaly, Muse Model Management president Conor Kennedy tells TIME that the fashion industry opening its doors to a variety of body sizes is a consistent movement rather than a “flavor in the moment” passing trend.

Vogue

“A few years ago there was a little burst where there was an Italian Vogue cover” — in which plus-size models seductively posed over … spaghetti — “and then V Magazine did a shoot, and then it tailored off,” he says. “The past two years it’s very different because there are all types of editorials. I think that the next breakthrough we are looking for are campaigns, and we’re starting to see it now.” Curvier celeb cover subjects like Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are also changing perceptions in the fashion industry.

Kennedy has noticed increased excitement on the creative side of the industry over a diversity of sizes as a desirable aesthetic choice and greater openness in castings.

“But there’s an evolution on both sides of the spectrum,” he says. “It’s also a great thing for business.”

Retailers Finally Recognize an Untapped Market
Clothing makers are finally beginning to understand that if they increase their offerings — and we’re talking fashionable offerings rather than an increased muumuu selection — in the “plus size” category, it will be beneficial to their bottom line. With the “average” American woman wearing a size 14, that’s 100 million potential customers.

“It’s a huge market and it’s totally underserved,” ModCloth co-founder Susan Gregg Koger told CNBC.

When Koger decided to expand the e-retailer’s plus-size division, she reached out to 1,500 vendors for help — and only 35 responded. But a year into the expansion, with 100 vendors on board, Koger told Business Insider that she expected sales to double in 2014.

According to the market-research firm NPD Group, plus-size-clothing sales increased 5% last year to $17.5 billion. E-retailers are taking advantage of this rise. In December, plus-size fashion e-retailer ELOQUII raised $6 million in Series A funding. But brick-and-mortar retailers still have room for improvement.

But the quality must improve as well because, at the moment, full-bodied women are searching for — but often not finding — fashionable outfits that go up to their size. Stylist Sal Perez explained the difficulties in trying to dress Rebel Wilson for her role in Pitch Perfect 2 to the New York Times.

“I am horrified by some of the clothes I find in the stores,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who enjoys wearing polyester.”

Target premiers its plus-size line

After interacting with six different designers who wouldn’t dress her for the Oscars, Melissa McCarthy decided to launch a fashion label of her own that will offer both plus- and “regular” size clothing.

Larger retailers are finally getting the message as well. In mid-February, Target will launch a plus-size line called Ava & Viv that is designed specifically for “the plus-size woman who loves fashion.”

“Women want to go shopping together,” Emme says. “If you eliminate the plus-size department that’s always in the basement or next to maternity, and you increase the numbers of 14, 16 and 18s, you are going to make more money than you have ever made.”

To illustrate her point, Emme recalls a plus-size fashion show she attended with her daughter at Macy’s. At the end of the show, the 13-year-old asked if Emme thought a particular dress came in her size — she didn’t see it as undesirable for a larger demographic, but as beautiful clothing displayed on a beautiful model who she would like to replicate.

“A lightbulb went off,” Emme says. “I don’t think the younger generation sees it as size. They see beauty as it is.”

The End of Barbie
New trends in toy sales serve as fiscal evidence that children also want natural, realistic beauty — rather than unattainable ideals. Barbie, who has seen her share of criticism for being an anatomically impossible mutant, is losing her clout among girls — and their parents. As people stopped buying Barbies, they crowd-funded an alternative to the tune of $500,000.

Touted as the “normal Barbie,” Lammily dolls are built to the measurements of an average woman, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

LammilyThe “normal” Barbie, created by Nickolay Lamm,

“This is the doll people have been waiting for,” Nickolay Lamm told TIME when he prepared to ship tens of thousands of dolls to eager backers before the holidays.

“She looks like a regular girl going to school,” a second-grader said when she was presented with a Lammily doll.

“She’s not like other dolls,” said another. “She looks real.”

One of the reasons that Lamm was able turn the Lammily doll from a concept to an actual product was because his original sketches of the “normal Barbie” — meant to simply be an art project — went viral. Its traction online indicated to Lamm how thirsty people were to celebrate the beauty of reality.

While #thinspiration and unhealthy body ideals that promote eating disorders or worse certainly exist on social networks, an easily outraged Twitterverse is quick to call companies out for promoting body-negative ideology.

People will no longer stand for Victoria’s Secret creating an advertisement that puts the wording “Perfect Body” over a slew of skinny, skinny models. The company quietly changed its ads after an onslaught of social-media outrage. And some 20,000 people will sign Change.org petitions when they find out that Old Navy charges more money for items that come in plus sizes. (The retailer didn’t fully capitulate, but it did change plus-size policies.)

Holliday, who started a viral #EffYourBeautyStandards online campaign, attributes her recent signing and burgeoning career to her dedicated social-media following. “People aren’t used to seeing someone who is fat and happy,” she says, which could be why her 415,000 Instagram followers so eagerly await her posts.

“It’s not a trend, really — it’s happening,” Emme says. “It’s the tipping point.”

TIME Super Bowl

McDonald’s Will Start Accepting ‘Lovin’ As Payment For Fries

According to the company's very cheesy Super Bowl ad

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Last year, McDonald’s started letting customers buy meals using Apple Pay on their iPhones. But the fast food chain will start accepting a far stranger currency to pay for fries: ‘Lovin’.’

McDonald’s 2015 Super Bowl ad says that between Feb. 2 and 14, randomly selected customers will be offered the chance to do things like call their mom to say “I love you,” give someone a hug, or do a silly dance as a form of payment.

This is a part of McDonald’s revamped “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign. (The last ad in the series implied that a trip to a Play Place could help unclog bipartisan gridlock.)

TIME Companies

We’ll Soon Know More About Amazon’s Cloud Business Than Ever Before

Amazon Starts Music Streaming Service Without Universal
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The Amazon.com Inc. Prime Music logo is displayed on an Apple Inc. laptop for a photograph in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, June 12, 2014.

Amazon will start breaking out its cloud computing business

Amazon’s cloud business has long been more like a cumulonimbus than a cirrus — that is, not very transparent at all.

In its quarterly earnings reports, Amazon has traditionally buried its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud offerings into a category called “North America Net Sales (Other),” where it sat alongside a hodgepodge of other stuff. That made it difficult to tell how well the company’s cloud business is doing. Analysts could see the “Other” category skyrocketing (it grew 43% year-over-year last quarter) and make estimates accordingly, but they couldn’t tell with absolute certainty how much of that growth was thanks to AWS.

Now, that’s all about to change. In a conference call with investors Thursday afternoon, the company promised it will start breaking out AWS into a separate category beginning with its next earnings report, due in April.

“We just think it’s an appropriate way to look at our business in 2015,” Amazon Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said on that call.

Szkutak is right. Cloud computing is a growing part of Amazon’s total business, with that “Other” category earning $5.4 billion in revenue last year compared to $3.7 billion in 2013. It’s also an increasingly competitive field, with rivals like Microsoft, IBM and Google all ramping up their efforts in the category. Amazon investors, then, ought to know exactly how well AWS is doing.

That Amazon is ready to break out AWS into a separate category is also a sign it’s confident in the numbers. Perhaps as an early tease, it let at least one boastful fact slip on Thursday’s earnings call: More than 1 million customers use AWS as of the end of 2014, from individuals to big web companies like Netflix and Pinterest. That’s a nice milestone to brag about before getting into the nitty-gritty later this year.

TIME Music

Jay Z To Buy Streaming Music Service Aspiro for $56 Million

Jay Z performs at The Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2013.
Kevin Winter—Getty Images Jay Z performs at The Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2013.

The hip-hop mogul wants to challenge Spotify

Taylor Swift isn’t the only artist to throw up roadblocks in Spotify’s march toward music streaming domination, as Jay Z has now made an offer to purchase a streaming service of his own.

The hip-hop mogul — real name Shawn Carter — is in the process of buying the Scandinavian music streaming company Aspiro for a reported $56 million. Project Panther Bidco Ltd, a company controlled by Jay Z, told Reuters on Friday that it had made the move to purchase the service after watching Aspiro for some time and finding it to be “an innovative high-quality company with strong future growth potential.”

Aspiro’s main shareholder, the Norwegian media group Schibsted, has said they’ve accepted the offer.

Aspiro runs two music streaming services, both of which are ad-free. One is WiMP, which has limited availability in Europe, and the other is Tidal, a high-definition audio service that is available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

[Reuters]

MONEY charitable giving

How Average Americans Can Give to Charity Like Billionaires

hand giving stack of cash
Paul Reid—iStock

Gifts from donor-advised funds, which act like foundations for ordinary folks, are growing faster than gifts from billionaires—and addressing critical issues like the Ebola crisis.

Forty-four donors gave gifts of $50 million or more to charity last year. The top 10 alone totaled $3.3 billion. But if you really want to know how America gives, look at the explosive growth of donor-advised funds, which have become a kind of personal foundation for Everyman.

Last year Fidelity Charitable, the largest donor-advised fund manager with $14.6 billion in assets, granted $2.6 billion to 92,000 charities. That was a record dollar amount, up 24% from last year and represents a nearly four-fold increase in 10 years. Meanwhile, the total of the 10 biggest gifts was down slightly last year and remains 20% below pre-recession levels, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In all, about 1,000 charities offer donor-advised funds and gift about $10 billion a year, according to National Philanthropic Trust. These charities have nearly $54 billion in assets. At Fidelity Charitable, individual gifts last year were as little as $50 and the average gift was $4,100, pointing up the Everyman aspect of these funds. Still, 277 gifts of a $1 million or more came from Fidelity Charitable as well.

Donor-advised funds allow individuals to set aside money on their schedule and realize the tax benefits immediately. The money cannot be taken back but the donor can choose when and where to disburse the funds. This is similar to the way large foundations work for the super wealthy. For example, last year’s largest charitable gift was a $1 billion bequest from Detroit businessman Ralph Wilson, who died in March—he left the money to his foundation, and his heirs will direct the donations.

At Fidelity Charitable, individuals can open a donor-advised account with as little as $5,000. About 60% of the accounts have balances below $25,000. Since the money cannot be taken back, it typically does not sit in the account indefinitely: 20% of assets are gifted each year and 90% are distributed as a grant within a decade, Fidelity says.

Other fund groups offer donor-advised options, including Schwab, which has a $5,000 minimum investment, and Vanguard, which requires $25,000 or more to get started. Many community foundations have set up donor-advised funds to meet local needs; to find a foundation near you, check out this locator.

Typically, individuals use donor-advised funds as part of planned annual giving. But because the funds are already set aside, donors also tend to respond to sudden needs. Fidelity Charitable distributed $5.5 million through more than 1,000 individual grants for Ebola relief last year. Almost all of that came in the fourth quarter—the height of the crisis. Wealthy donors get all the attention. But you don’t need a foundation to act like one.

Read next: How to Get the Most Bang for Your Charitable Giving Buck

TIME 2015 Super Bowl

The Ad That Changed Super Bowl Commercials Forever

How "The Force" has remained the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time

In 2011, on the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, a new Volkswagen commercial popped up on YouTube. “The Force” featured a kid ambling about his house dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader while attempting to use the Dark Side on everything from the family dog to the new Passat sitting in the driveway.

From the early 1980s—when Super Bowl ads became as anticipated as the game itself—until that moment, advertisers generally kept their spots under wraps, careful not to jeopardize the big reveal. But for the 2011 Super Bowl, Volkswagen was in a bind. The company had bought two 30-second spots—one for “The Force,” advertising the new Passat, and another called “Black Beetle,” showing off the new Jetta, both created by the ad agency Deutsch. But everyone involved felt a 60-second version of “The Force” was their best work. It was just too long to play during the game.

VW’s marketing team also knew they were facing big obstacles on game day: the company hadn’t run a Super Bowl ad in over a decade, and the two commercials they planned to run would be competing against multiple spots from larger automakers with more ad dollars. So they decided that one possible way to stand out was to release “The Force” early, even though it defied what was widely accepted as smart advertising strategy around the biggest ad day of the year.

“It’s hard to think about now, but at the time, it was not the conventional wisdom to air or put online a commercial that was meant for the Super Bowl,” says Tim Ellis, who was the head of marketing for Volkswagen North America at the time and is now the chief marketing officer for video game maker Activision. “The wisdom was you hold it, because you would get the most value out of that impression by waiting.”

Ellis says it was a controversial decision to run it early, even among the ad agency and VW’s marketing team. “But I thought if everything goes right, this thing will catch fire and go viral,” he says.

By 8 a.m. Thursday, “The Force” had been viewed 1.8 million times on YouTube and had racked up 17 million views before kickoff, according to figures provided by Deutsch. Today, “The Force” has 61 million views on YouTube and is still the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time and the second most shared TV commercial ever.

“It paid for itself before it ever ran,” says Mike Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch North America.

MORE 5 Ways This Year’s Super Bowl Ads Will Be Like No Other

The ad’s runaway success changed how advertisers approach Super Bowl Sunday ever since. Instead of standalone spots, Super Bowl ads have become the anchors of extended marketing campaigns with vast social media presences often launched weeks before the game. This year, more than 20 brands have already released their full Super Bowl ads or special teasers for them.

“Super Bowl advertising has changed fundamentally,” says Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University marketing professor. “It’s gone from being a one-time event to a months-long marketing campaign.”

For years, the Super Bowl ad was a fleeting thing. 1984—the Apple ad still widely considered the greatest Super Bowl commercial—aired just twice, once in 10 local outlets on Dec. 31, 1983, and once more during the game the following month.

As the audience for the game grew, brands expanded their Super Bowl marketing budgets (think Budweiser’s talking frogs and Pepsi’s splashy productions with Ray Charles and Cindy Crawford). During the first Super Bowl, the average cost of a 30-second spot was $40,000 ($280,000 when adjusted for inflation). This year, NBC is charging $4.5 million, and at least one NBC executive claims that the exposure brands get during the Super Bowl is closer to $10 million in value. And as our media consumption habits have been transformed by social networks and mobile devices, a Super Bowl ad now needs to resonate on social media to be considered successful. Budweiser, for example, has launched the social media campaign #BestBuds urging people to help a rancher find his lost puppy in its latest spot, and Pepsi and ShopTV will send out tweets during Katy Perry’s halftime performance with links for viewers to buy related merchandise.

“What was just a bunch of 30-, 60-second TV commercials, everybody now has turned this into a full-on social media integrated play,” Deutsch’s Sheldon says. “I don’t look at Super Bowl ads as TV commercials. The Super Bowl is a social media and PR phenomenon that has a number of integrated components in which one is a TV commercial.”

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Courtesy of DeutschThis photo of a kid dressed as Darth Vader inside a Burger King inspired the creative team at Deutsch as they were making “The Force” ad.

More than any other ad agency, Deutsch appears to have been the first to recognize that new paradigm. Back in 2010, when the agency won a bid to develop the TV campaign for Volkswagen’s Jetta and Passat lines, employees in Deutsch’s Los Angeles offices had placed funny photos above their four-color copy machine, one of which was a kid in a Darth Vader costume sulking inside a Burger King. That inspired the company’s creative team to come up with a spot featuring a similar kid dressed as the Star Wars villain who keeps failing in his attempts to use the Force around his home until he succeeds in turning on his dad’s new Volkswagen (the assist from his dad, who actually turned on the car, was a clever way to tout the Passat’s new remote starter). It was a perfect combination: the enduring popularity of Star Wars, childhood nostalgia, touching moments between a father and son, a narrative arc that went tidily from conflict to resolution, and plenty of humor thanks to a 6-year-old dressed as a notorious movie villain.

“If you don’t have all of these ingredients, the spot really doesn’t work,” says Tom Else, Deutsch’s VW account director.

Deutsch executives say it was a rare spot where there were essentially no changes or edits coming from inside creative or from the client.

“Very early on we knew it was extraordinary, but you can never predict what the world thinks is fantastic,” Else says.

Soon after it launched, “The Force” became the most shared TV spot of all-time, according to Unruly, which tracks and analyzes viral videos. The ad held the top spot for three years, until July 2014, when it was knocked off by a music video sponsored by yogurt brand Activia and featuring the singer Shakira. But “The Force” is still considered the most shared Super Bowl ad of all time.

“Every decade or so, there’s lightning in a bottle,” says Matt Jarvis, chief strategy officer of ad agency 72andSunny, which produced a popular Super Bowl ad for Samsung in 2013 and created a spot for Carl’s Jr. this year. “And I think this is one of those cases.”

Jarvis says “The Force” successfully used a combination of both earned media—YouTube hits, for example—along with paid media, such as a 15-second teaser spot that aired on “Saturday Night Live” the night before the game, to create momentum that continued through the Super Bowl.

“It was about building that wave and then riding that wave,” Ellis says.

It helped that the ad contained all the components of a viral hit. Unruly recently group-tested “The Force” and found that it still resonated with viewers, discovering that it hit five of 10 “social motivators” that Unruly’s execs say trigger people to share something. They found that viewers sent the ad to others in part because it reflected a shared passion with someone else (love for Star Wars, for instance) and that sharers believed it could be useful (their friend might be looking for a new car). But Unruly also found that it resonated on a more gut level, eliciting feelings of joy and surprise when the kid “turns on” the car, which researchers says is a key component in motivating us to share.

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“It’s a great example of emotion,” says Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, adding that the peaks and valleys of the kid failing and finally succeeding, as well as the nostalgia it can elicit, are the main triggers for why it went viral.

After “The Force’s” success, Deutsch sensed that other advertisers would start releasing their ads early as well. So in 2012, the agency released the first full-length ad for an ad when it launched The Bark Side, which included dogs bark-singing Star Wars’ Imperial March. For the game, it released The Dog Strikes Back as its official Super Bowl ad, which again included the Darth Vader Kid from the previous year’s commercial. Both ads have remained in Unruly’s top 20 viral Super Bowl ads of all-time.

Since “The Force,” advertisers have increasingly created teaser ads, alternate versions of their Super Bowl commercials, or have released the ad in its entirety early. Among this year’s efforts to gin up early buzz are a T-Mobile spot featuring Kim Kardashian, a teaser for a Nationwide ad with actress Mindy Kaling, and a Bud Light spot that debuted on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.” Dove, meanwhile, posted a version of its ad almost two weeks before the game, while Lexus released its full ad more than two weeks before Super Bowl Sunday.

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There are now essentially three groups of brands competing during the Super Bowl: those who release their ads early, those who tease their ads, and those who keep the ads a surprise. Northwestern’s Calkins says that for most advertisers, getting out early is often the best strategy.

“The Super Bowl builds over a matter of weeks, so if you’re a marketer, you have an opportunity to engage with customers for seven, 14, 21 days,” Calkins says. “You can really get some mileage from your creative.”

The challenge for Super Bowl advertisers, Calkins says, is twofold: breaking through the noise and saying something important about the product. “The hard thing is doing both of those things at the same time,” he says. “Ideally, you come up with an ad as charming as ‘The Force’ that also delivers a product benefit. But that is incredibly difficult to do.”

This year, Deutsch is working on two ads: one for mobile battery company mophie, and the other for Sprint. The company released the mophie spot on Thursday:

It’s designed to be understood even if you can’t hear the TV over loud and rowdy friends. “If you’re relying on some sort of audio or voice gag, it can get missed,” Sheldon says. “You can run that spot with no audio and you get the joke.”

But Deutsch is going in a different direction with its Sprint ad. While the agency has created a teaser, the actual ad won’t be released before the Super Bowl. The hope is that it can distinguish itself by swimming against the tide the agency helped create.

“When everybody else is screaming, the one whispering stands out,” Sheldon says. “It has a different volume than others. We’re breaking our own rules a little bit. It’s the kind of spot that you wouldn’t want to release early.”

Read next: 49 Super Bowl Facts You Should Know Before Super Bowl XLIX

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TIME Retail

Lego Has Unveiled a New Avengers Play Set and It Costs More Than an Xbox One

The set comes with a whopping 2,996 pieces

Lego has announced that at next month’s Toy Fair in New York City it will debut a new play set based on The Avengers movie that will retail at $349.99 — that’s $1 more than Microsoft’s Xbox One console.

The 2-ft.-long S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, seen in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier movies, comes with a whopping 2,996 pieces and includes two runways, three Quinjets (Avengers-style aircraft), several other jets, ground vehicles and 12 microfigures of The Avengers characters, Variety reports.

But it seems people are willing to shell out for the heavy price tag; Lego’s Death Star set from Star Wars is going for $400 and is currently sold out on the company’s website.

[Variety]

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