Super Bowl

Marketers Will Need Extra Velvet Ropes for NYC Super Bowl Parties

Organizers Started Planning Well in Advance for Challenges

By Published on .

Players and fans are not the only ones who will experience something new in the Meadowlands when the Super Bowl is held for the first time in an open stadium in a cold-weather region. Party planners will also be performing feats of endurance as they attempt to work their magic amid the traffic and crowds of New York.

DirecTV Beach Bowl
DirecTV Beach Bowl

Organizers of perennials like ­DirecTV's Celebrity Beach Bowl and the Maxim Super Bowl Party say they started their preparations at least six months earlier than usual, partly to deal with logistical challenges unique to the city. But placing the biggest marketing event of the year in the media and advertising capital has also raised the bar for performance -- while offering the chance of a windfall in publicity and sponsorship dollars.

"Nothing is bigger than New York," said Ben Madden, president of Maxim, the once-mighty young men's magazine that garners significant ad revenue from its signature annual event. "We'll have to take it up to another level in terms of the kind of party we throw."

Adding to the pressure is competition from Manhattan's formidable nightlife scene, as well as the presence of so many top advertising and marketing executives, who will be able to check out firsthand how their dollars are being spent.

New York is also the capital of high rollers; having the National Football League championship game on their turf means a bigger crowd looking to get past the velvet ropes. As a result, Mr. Madden expects there to be more events during the week leading up to Sunday's game -- rather than just the traditional Friday- and Saturday-night spectaculars -- and more postgame parties.

At the same time, organizers have to adapt events designed for the likes of Florida and Texas to the densest urban environment in the country. ­DirecTV, for instance, needed a location that could hold an 88,000-square-foot tent, be accessible to trucks bringing in 1 million pounds of sand and be convenient for celebrities taking part in Beach Bowl or Super Saturday Night, when the tent turns into a nightclub.

The satellite-TV giant chose Pier 40 on the Hudson River, where VIPs will be brought by yacht, and materials trucked in between midnight and 6 a.m. The Los Angeles-­based company, which headquarters its advertising and marketing muscle in New York, will give the tent a 10-foot firewall made from steel beams covered with fire-­retardant plywood and rendered by an artist to resemble the Manhattan skyline.

Gains expected

"We've got a waiting list for sponsors that's the longest we've had by far," said Paul Guyardo, chief revenue and marketing officer at ­DirecTV, which launched Beach Bowl in 2007 and added its nighttime gala in 2011.

Other businesses in New York should also do well. A study commissioned by East Rutherford's New Meadowlands (now MetLife) Stadium in 2010 as part of its Super Bowl bid estimated that holding the big game here would provide a boost of between $500 million and $600 million to the ­region.

But some economists warn that the benefits for the local economy may be smaller than advertised.

"There's no doubt that hotels will be full and they'll be raising rates two to three times regular prices, but they won't be raising wages," noted Victor Matheson, a professor of economics of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., who has written on the impact of sporting events on host cities. That money "goes back to corporate headquarters, wherever that is, and to shareholders spread around the world."

He added that other spending gets crowded out -- that is, locals who spend money on Super Bowl events won't be buying theater tickets, for example. Still, Mr. Matheson expects gains for the likes of caterers and limo drivers. And there may be many, less directly measurable benefits.

"You're going to have a lot of people extend their trip and conduct additional business with clients," said David Carter, a principal at consulting firm Sports Business Group. "The Super Bowl provides a backdrop to business development."

For ESPN the Magazine, which hosts a yearly gala tied to its annual "Next" issue, 2014 will be a chance to integrate online and TV advertising into the party sponsorships for the first time.

'Move the needle'

"Our goal is to move the needle more toward multimedia, and since we're in New York we'll have an opportunity to do that," said Lauren Robinson, event marketing manager at ESPN, which will mark 10 years of Super Bowl parties with its 2014 event. "Because a lot of our advertising agencies are based in New York, we can bring a print rep and a digital rep to a meeting and really start that conversation."

Despite all the advantages of New York, organizers still must contend with the weather. Fox Sports, which will be producing the Super Bowl telecast, is designing sets for Times Square that can open to the outdoors on a balmy day but stay closed and heated against the cold, according to Coordinating Producer David Neal. (The company will be promoting the big game and new ESPN competitor Fox Sports 1 with a week of Super Bowl-intensive programming.)

And the NFL will celebrate ­winter with a "Super Bowl Boulevard" running up Broadway that includes a 58-foot-high, 180-foot-long ­toboggan run.

"We hope to do something never done before at this size and scope," said Mary Pat Augenthaler, the NFL's VP-events.


Matthew Flamm is a reporter for Crain's New York Business.

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