Super Bowl

Will Marketers Flock to an Indianapolis Super Bowl?

Sports-Centric Town Is No Stranger to Hosting Big Events, but Some Businesses Aren't Ready for Indy

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The city of Indianapolis, a sports-centric town that is no stranger to hosting big events, is getting ready for the biggest one of all. But when it comes to the Super Bowl, some marketers aren't ready for Indy.

Newest rendering of Super Bowl Village.
Newest rendering of Super Bowl Village.

"It's been hit-and-miss, and for the Super Bowl it's never really like that ," said Fred Rodgers, VP-corporate division at Premiere Global Sports, a New York-based agency that helps companies arrange junkets to and parties at sports and entertainment events. "A lot of our companies had a great time at the Super Bowl in Dallas last year, and next year the game is back in New Orleans. So they've taken a look at Indy and said, "We're taking a pass this year.'"

Though Mr. Rodgers would not name the marketers that have decided not to go to the Feb. 5 game, he said one client had booked Premiere's largest hospitality deal ever.

The National Football League has done a yeoman's job of awarding Super Bowls to smaller markets and cities that aren't necessarily tourist destinations. But those places have often received so-so reviews.

Jacksonville, Fla., for instance, didn't have enough hotel rooms, so the NFL had to bring in and dock five cruise ships to house 7,600 guests for the 2005 Super Bowl. Detroit, host of the 2006 Super Bowl, also had a problem with too few hotel rooms. Some media members were forced to stay in Livonia, 19 miles from Ford Field downtown, while some fans booked rooms in Ann Arbor, 40 miles from the stadium.

Even last year's party in Dallas had issues, with lead-up events spread throughout the city, an unusual batch of ice storms and dozens of attendees being removed from their seats after the fire marshal failed to sign off on that section of the brand-new stadium.

"I think Indianapolis has done a great job of preparation" said Robert Tuchman, president of New York-based Elite Experiences, which also arranges hospitality packages for consumers and corporations. "The only major issue I see is the lack of adequate hotel space, and that 's what hampering corporate people from going to the event."

The problem at Super Bowl time "has always been the hotel room availability, especially with corporations," Mr. Rodgers said. "They like to go into four- and five-star properties, and those are limited in Indy."

Though Indy is actually similar to frequent host city New Orleans in terms of population, TV markets and hotel capacity, the intersection of Georgia and Meridian streets isn't exactly the French Quarter.

"We're not New Orleans or any other city, and we don't try to be," said Morgan Greenlee, senior communications manager for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau. "But we're very excited about what we have to offer. We're so compact, and we think that can work to our advantage."

Ms. Greenlee said the PepsiCo Super Bowl Fan Jam will be held in the nearby Indiana State Fairgrounds and noted that Rolling Stone magazine will be hosting its first Super Bowl party the night before the game.

And Maxim will hold its annual night-before-the-game party.

"Is Indianapolis a sexy city?" asked Ben Madden, Maxim's chief revenue officer. "I think every city brings its own opportunities and own hurdles," Mr. Madden said. "You make the best of where you are."

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