Field of Screams: Loss of Super Bowl Would Flush $11B Down the Drain

100 Million Pounds of Wings, 12 Million Bags of Chips and Hopes of Host City, Hoteliers and Advertisers on the Line

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It might be an advantage for players in the epic tussle over next year's NFL season since a federal judge called the 45-day NFL lockout illegal and sent everybody back to work on Friday, but as of press time the league was determined to drag things on, asking the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to restore the lockout as soon as possible.

And with the NFL draft this past weekend kicking off with lower ratings , we couldn't help but wonder: What if the worst happened -- what if there was no Super Bowl?

Besides a jolt to the national psyche and brief mass hysteria, the cancellation of that weekend alone would mean the loss of at least $11 billion in spending on everything from hotel rooms to private jets to potato chips.

Could a season without professional football really happen? Major League Baseball lost the 1994 World Series to labor strife, and the National Hockey League lost the entire 2004-05 season, and the Stanley Cup, to a lockout. If the labor strife between the National Football League's owners and players continues, and it results in the cancellation of the 2011 season and, thusly, the Super Bowl, it could be a drain of $11 billion dollars on not just the sports world, but the economy at large. (What would happen if the entire season was lost?)

"And that 's not even counting the things you can't quantify, like lost opportunities," said Robert Boland, clinical associate professor of sports management at New York University. "Look at the companies that use the Super Bowl broadcast as a platform to launch new products. They'll never get in front of that many eyeballs again. Look at the host cities. When New Orleans hosts for the first time since Katrina it will be critically important because the future of a lot of hotel and convention business will ride on it. That's how important a Super Bowl is ."

Start with the game itself and the host cities. Using a conservative average of $1,000 a ticket for the Super Bowl at a 70,000-seat stadium -- Dallas' facility held more than 100,000 fans for this year's game -- and the NFL and host franchise are looking at loss of $70 million.

Indianapolis, the host city for the 2012 Bowl, built a new indoor facility for its NFL franchise after being awarded the game. It stands to lose some $250 million to $300 million in economic impact to the city from hosting the game, a rough estimate based on the sometimes overinflated studies produced by the NFL and a more line-by -line critical detail done by those in academia.

"I think somewhere between zero and whatever the host city wants that number to be is a safe bet," said Scott Rosner, with a laugh. Mr. Rosner is the associate director of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Sports Business Initiative . "But, look, the bottom line is , it's going to have an impact, not only on the host city but elsewhere. Look at retail and packaged goods."

A 2010 Nielsen study showed that nine out of 10 Americans watch the Super Bowl at home or at the home of a friend or relative rather than in a bar or restaurant, and that the Super Bowl is the second-biggest eat-at-home day besides Thanksgiving. Thus, retail purchases such as food and beverages -- including 100 million pounds of chicken wings and 12 million bags of potato chips -- as well as apparel, decorations and new furniture are at risk. According to a survey by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, Super Bowl spending for the 2011 game was expected to reach $10.1 billion, or roughly $59.33 per person.

That's just for that Sunday alone.

The network broadcasting the game is looking at losing $180 million in ad revenue, again using the simple math of an average of 60 30-second spots during the game telecast multiplied by an average of $3 million per spot. That doesn't count what the network is getting from pre-game commercials or from spots on lead-out broadcasts following the game, not to mention the platform for publicizing its other programming.

Ordering in? The major pizza chains, including Domino's, Pizza Hut and Papa John's, all say that Super Bowl Sunday is their biggest day, with a 35%-40% bump in sales. According to Pizza Today Editor Jeremy White, there is no definitive guess as to what that one day alone produces. But pizza delivery is a $38 billion yearly business in this country -- simple division shows that $38 billion divided by 365 days produces a typical day of $104 million in sales.

Now, both Mr. Rosner and famed sports-economics expert Andrew Zimbalist say some of those figures are tempered by what they call displacement. If a hotel room isn't filled because the Super Bowl is canceled, it will be filled by somebody else, such as a tourist or a business conducting a convention or a golfer heading to play in a warm-weather site for the weekend, such as when the Super Bowl is held in Miami or Tampa. That consumer who shells out for the 60-inch flat screen for the big game? He's still going to make that purchase, it's just going to come at a different time of year, said Mr. Zimbalist.

"Hey, I might do this for a living but I'm a sports fan, too," said Mr. Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. "I have no reason to make an argument to be critical of the leagues, but the fact of the matter is they're doing a lot of hype here, and the cost is more diminutive than you think."

Not to some companies, who traditionally use the Super Bowl as a major hospitality event for their clients. A conservative estimate from several interviews conducted with marketers who entertain clients at the Super Bowl puts the hospitality spend at $75 million to $100 million for a three- or four-day weekend, including private jets, hotel suites, dinners, parties, game tickets and other expenses.

The NFL labor situation is so critical that Maxim magazine Chief Revenue Officer Ben Madden said he and his staff started preparing for 2012 alternatives to their famed Super Bowl party the day after the 2011 Super Bowl ended. "We're not putting ourselves in a situation like that old Christmas special, 'The Year Without a Santa Claus,'" Mr. Madden said. "There is no way we won't have a plan. We'll create multiple touch points to replicate that Super Bowl moment that the Maxim party gives. There may not be a Super Bowl, but there will be a Maxim event somewhere."

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