CAN DETROIT HACK IT AS A SUPER BOWL ADVERTISERS' TOWN?

Rich Thomaselli Reports From the Motor City

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Welcome to 'The D.'

Or, in my case, welcome back.

For 18 months, from November 2003 to May 2005, I worked in Advertising

Ad Age reporter Rich Thomaselli is reporting from Detroit.
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Age's Detroit office before going back to New York. The view outside my window for that year-and-a-half: Ford Field, home of Sunday's Super Bowl XL. For a former sportswriter and overall sports fan, it never got old.

NFL's Detroit deal
Several years ago, the National Football League basically told Detroit that if it built a new downtown stadium for the Lions, it would reward the city -- and the powerful Ford family -- with a Super Bowl. The NFL held up its end of the bargain.

Now sponsors and advertisers will decide whether Detroit becomes a regular Super Bowl destination along with the likes of Miami, Tampa, Phoenix and Atlanta.

Marketing bacchanalia
Because while the NFL ultimately chooses its Super Bowl sites, it's certainly not without the feedback of its corporate partners, who use the week leading up to the game to entertain its own VIPs through a variety of events and parties -- or, in the case of some marketers, general bacchanalia.

“Miami, New Orleans ... all those places have already proved themselves and, yeah, a lot of it has to do with the warm weather or reputation or what have you,” said a chief marketing officer from one of the league's sponsors. “Detroit is kind of an unknown quantity, so the city basically has seven days to show us a good time. Because if it can't, you can bet corporate sponsors, team sponsors, television advertisers and anybody who is spending big bucks -- and I'm not even talking about people who spend the $2.5 [million] on a commercial -- are going to make their opinions known.”

Detroit's great divide
Detroit is a curious town, a city where the divide between rich and poor is almost literal. You can drive east on Jefferson Avenue, through some of the worst neighborhoods in the city, before crossing Barrington Road and ending up in tony Grosse Point Park, the beginning of the Grosse Pointes, where million-dollar mansions line the road across from Lake St. Clair. There's no middle point; there's no middle class. It goes from poor to rich in the time it takes to pass through a traffic light.

But it is a great city with a rich history, especially in music. They do know how to party here. So if sponsors and advertisers and corporate partners are looking to be entertained, and decisions about future Super Bowls are made based in part on their recommendations, well, let's hope they don't pass judgment in the time it takes to go through a traffic light.

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