SBJ/January 28-February 3, 2013/Events and Attractions

Where’s the party in NOLA?

No shortage, but NFL, others scaling back

New Orleans may be a town famous for all-day carousing, but the Super Bowl party scene will have some noticeable absences this week.

The NFL Commissioner’s Party, which started as a media gathering at the first Super Bowl and eventually gave rise to the whole party scene, is scaling back to a VIP-only event this year with thousands fewer attending. The league also is downsizing the party annually hosted by its consumer products division to a luncheon.

The NFL is not the only one scaling back, either. Penthouse is not reprising its annual Super Bowl party. A spokeswoman declined to say why.

The league offered a few explanations for the cutback of the Commissioner’s Party, which has been scaled back to 1,200 guests. Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, agreed that the number of attendees was down, but added, “There also weren’t all the other new events, parties … TV shows we’ve created. Not sure how things will be in future years.”

Teams also have opted to stage their own smaller gatherings, McCarthy said, taking advantage of New Orleans’ many hospitality options. There are also events, like the “NFL Honors” awards show and the Tailgate Party before the game. “We also factored in that there are a couple establishments in New Orleans where fans, media and business partners could celebrate,” McCarthy added.

It costs several million dollars to host a large Super Bowl party, experts said, so the cost savings to the NFL, with $9.5 billion of revenue, is insignificant in that light. But if looked at just from the event production budget of the league office, then the savings are more significant.

In terms of other traditional events, Playboy is back in full force with its annual offering, presented by Crown Royal, this Friday night at the Jackson Brewery Bistro Bar, with music by DJs Devin Lucien and Jesse Marco and a performance by B.o.B.

Maxim’s annual bash is at the Second Line Stages studio Saturday night, and it expects a crowd of between 2,000 and 3,000, said Ben Madden, president of the magazine. The party helps brand the publication, he said, “and is like a Disneyland for guys.”

DirecTV is so established in the Super Bowl party business that it purchased its own 60,000-plus-square-foot tent several years ago. This year’s seventh consecutive DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl Tailgate Experience will be Saturday next to Mardi Gras World, with a crowd of 4,500 expected for the daytime event. An invitation-only night party will host around the same number of people, with Justin Timberlake performing.

“Sponsorships support it and we look to put a halo around our brand, create some programming and support sponsors like MillerCoors, The Weather Channel and Lexus,” said Jon Gieselman, DirecTV senior vice president of advertising and PR.

ESPN always vies for the Super Bowl party that generates the most buzz. This year’s ESPN Next affair is Friday night inside a 50,000-square-foot tent at Tad Gormley Stadium; between 2,000 and 2,500 are expected. Sponsors include Bud Light, Coke Zero, Mercedes, Microsoft and Old Spice.

“We want our advertisers happy and to generate buzz for our brand at the center of the sports universe,” said Lauren Robinson, event marketing manager for ESPN The Magazine, who added that planning for next year’s event in New York is under way. “There aren’t many large sites available,” she said. “I’ve heard people talking about tenting portions of Central Park.”

Amid the orgy of excess that is the Super Bowl are a number of charitable events.

The Giving Back Fund’s annual Big Game Big Give party, set for Saturday night at the historic Smith House in the Garden District, is hoping to be the first benefit to raise a million dollars during a Super Bowl event. JP Morgan is presenting sponsor; tickets are $1,000 and attendance is capped at 400.

“We have a few tickets left, if a really important sponsor or philanthropist comes late,” said Giving Back Fund President Marc Pollick, “but what makes this unique is that we’re all focused on philanthropy at the biggest stage in sports.”

Moves magazine, which skipped the Super Bowl last year in Indianapolis, is back this year with a party for 2,000 at the downtown Metropolitan nightclub on Wednesday. Jay Glazer will host, and sponsors include Fuse Science, Sotheby’s and Diageo.

“We need to make our athlete audience happy,” said Scott Miller, Moves CEO and publisher. “And after not much interest from athletes and sponsors about Indianapolis last year, we’re overwhelmed.”

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