SBJ/20100201/SBJ In-Depth

Is the payoff worth it for the host teams?

In May at the NFL owners meetings in Dallas, groups from New York, South Florida, Tampa and Arizona, in partnership with their respective teams, will seek to win the right to host the 2014 Super Bowl. The teams will put on a big show and spend significant time and money touting the bid.

What do the teams actually get out of being a host to the Super Bowl? That’s the dirty secret: Not much.

“The victor doesn’t get any spoils,” said Thad Sheely, the executive vice president of stadium development and finance for the New York Jets, which together with the New York Giants are striving to bring the Super Bowl to their new, shared stadium. New Meadowlands Stadium is scheduled to open in April.

Mike Dee, chief executive of the Miami Dolphins, which is the host team Sunday, said point blank, “There is not a lot of economic benefit to the team. Very little in fact. The NFL takes over the facility, and leases the facility. Most of that goes into the community.”

The league takes control of host venues and
reaps all the revenue from the game.

The host teams do receive about 3,000 tickets, more than the 700 other teams receive (other than the two competing teams, which receive more). That helps with business partners such as sponsors and suite holders.

But since the NFL controls the venue for the game, the money goes to the league, not the team.

Even Frank Supovitz, the NFL vice president of events, who is in charge of putting the specifications together for bidding cities, admitted there are “questionable benefits. The team sponsors do not enjoy an association with the Super Bowl per se.”

So why does a team go all out to help host the game?

One is to be a good civic partner, which could never hurt next time the team needs something from the local government. The game by some estimates creates a half-billion-dollar economic impact, though some sports academics charge that those figures are wildly inflated. Nonetheless, cities seem to buy into those numbers, and covet having the game.

The teams also get to showcase their buildings. The Jets, for example, are using the potential of hosting the game to help sell remaining seat licenses. “It’s about generating excitement around the new venue,” Sheely said of the New York bid.

The game Sunday in South Florida likely helped the Dolphins sell their naming-rights deal to Sun Life several weeks ago. However, hosting the game has yet to win a naming-rights deal for the Dallas Cowboys in their new home. The Cowboys host next year’s game.

Hosting the game can enhance a team’s reputation among suite holders and season-ticket holders. Some suite holders might be contractually allowed to use their suite during the game, though many teams double up suite holders into a single suite, Supovitz said.

There is another unspoken benefit of winning hosting rights for an NFL owner: It means they have influence among their peers. Internal league political considerations are never far from the surface in awarding the game. If a seemingly rock-solid bid falls early during an owners’ vote, chances are it had something to do with the bidding owner’s standing among his or her colleagues.

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