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■ What’s your biggest challenge in putting on the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather market?
■ Where do you stand in terms of sponsorship sales and budget goals?
KELLY: We are looking to raise and manage a budget of around $60 million. … For comparison, Phoenix is looking at a budget of
Al Kelly’s been busy preparing for next year’s Super Bowl. Last month he was with Woody Johnson (left) and Roger Goodell.
Photos:GETTY IMAGES (top); NY/NJ SUPER BOWL HOST COMMITTEE
■ So you are close to being sold out?
KELLY: Overall, we have very little inventory left. I am debating with myself whether we should hold a few suites out until the end, because depending on the teams involved, you can get a pretty penny for them. We are down to very little left, as far as our asset base. We actually aren’t selling right now. … We’d like to sell more at different levels. There are some interesting opportunities. We want to see if we can sell a title sponsorship to our volunteer program. We need 15,000 volunteers for this event. That compares to 7,500 in New Orleans and 8,000 in Indy. We’re at 12,000 volunteers already.
■ So where are you in terms of hitting your budget?
KELLY: I feel good about the revenue side of it, but we’ve got to manage the expense side of it. Weather is a variable, and I’m buying a lot of tickets, and we’re not going to know the ticket price for some time. There are all these unknowns. We have to manage our expenses carefully and we have to manage against assumptions. So are we making good assumptions about how much hotels or tickets are going to cost or how much weather is going to cost us? It’s about managing these variables, which could have the biggest impact on our budget.
■ Since you’ve done better than expected, are you expecting a budget surplus?
KELLY: I would hope we’d have a surplus and I’d hope it will go to the foundation we have formed. It’s the Snowflake Youth Foundation, which will help organizations that help kids with after-school, evening, weekend and summer programs. That will ultimately be decided by the board.
■ It’s about economic development …
KELLY: Sure. Our main Super Bowl is really Monday to Saturday of that week, in terms of the economic benefit for the region. I don’t have to worry about Sunday; that’s the NFL’s responsibility, and they do it well. Our responsibility is taking advantage of a time of year that is generally a little slower period of time in the calendar, with upwards of 200,000 people being here and not necessarily worrying about what things cost. They are willing to come to a Super Bowl site and spend money. We want to be sure that’s what they do.
When the power went out in New Orleans, eyebrows went up in Houston.
Within minutes of the Super Bowl power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and Ski Austin, the league’s executive vice president of events and attractions, were communicating with Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown to make sure Toyota Center was ready for the NBA’s big event on Sunday night. About the same time on Super Bowl Sunday, Brown was contacting arena operations staff to reiterate the building’s emergency power plan.
“I guarantee you every single building in the world had a meeting the next day to discuss the issue,” Brown said.
Toyota Center has multiple backup energy systems in place supported by a power station across the street from the arena. It is one of four power stations in downtown Houston that can supply electricity to the building if necessary, Brown said.
The NBA brings in most of the lighting used for the game, with generators to power those systems. “Barring something completely unforeseen,” Brown said, there is enough redundancy in the arena’s power grid to handle any breakdowns in power during the game.
— Don Muret
Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.
NBA partners’ activation plans for the league’s All-Star Weekend in Houston carry a distinct digital theme leading up to, and through, Sunday’s night’s centerpiece game at the Toyota Center.
For the first time this year, the All-Star media session on Friday afternoon will be streamed live via NBA.com. The event also has a lead sponsor for the first time: American Express. Four players from each conference will be made available for the event at the Hilton Americas hotel. Fans will be able to participate by asking players questions submitted in advance, starting today, via Twitter using the hashtag #AmexAllStar.
Other partners have already built and executed digital programs around All-Star. Kia ran a sweepstakes via the Kia Optima Facebook page that encouraged fans to submit a video explaining why they should be the Kia All-Star reporter. The winner receives a trip to Houston and the chance to serve as a “roving reporter,” having access to various All-Star events to gather video content that will be made available online via Kia.
Sears, in its first year as title sponsor of the Saturday night Shooting Stars competition, similarly ran an online contest, via its ShopYourWay.com site, giving fans the chance to be part of the trophy presentation to the winning team of that event.
“It is about how can our partners get fans engaged in the All-Star experience,” said Emilio Collins, senior vice president of global marketing partnerships for the NBA. “Our partners want to be where the fans want to be, and it is coupling that with new experiences.”
Sprint returned this year as sponsor of the All-Star Game’s online balloting. It also again will sponsor Friday night’s celebrity game along with a pregame concert before the All-Star Game on Sunday night. That concert will be staged at the branded Sprint Arena setup at NBA Jam Session, the league’s four-day fan festival being held this year at the George R. Brown Convention Center adjacent to the Toyota Center.
Other new All-Star activation highlights include The Budweiser Experience, an offering being set up next to the Toyota Center. The free fan event will feature a basketball court and a pop-up Budweiser bar featuring the brand’s new Black Crown beer.
The league also this year signed a joint deal with Sean John and Macy’s that makes the companies presenting sponsors of its All-Star Entertainment Series across both Saturday night and Sunday night. Entertainers scheduled to perform include Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo and John Legend.
For the first time in two decades, there will not be an NFL Experience during Super Bowl XLVIII next year in New York/New Jersey, as organizers could not find a space suitable to hold the huge festival that allows sponsors to interact with fans.Kelly said the Super Bowl Boulevard will be able to house much of the sponsor activity that occurs during the NFL Experience.
“There won’t be an NFL Experience,” said Super Bowl Host Committee CEO Al Kelly. “The Super Bowl Boulevard will serve as that major fan engagement activity.”
From Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, leading up to next year’s game, the NFL will turn a 10-block stretch of Broadway into Super Bowl Boulevard, from 34th Street to 44th Street.
“You can put some of it on the street,” Kelly said. “You can roll out a field on the street. You can put a concert stage out there. You can put the Wilson football factory out on the street.”
The Boulevard is designed to be a fan hub around the Super Bowl, as league officials are trying to create a central gathering place. Kelly envisioned an area with exhibits and events for fans but said it would not offer various food options so as to not compete with the city’s restaurants. In addition, the cross streets between 34th and 44th will not be shut down, allowing for traffic flow.
The lack of an NFL Experience surprised many sponsors who said they were unaware of the decision as of last week in New Orleans. Few agreed to comment on the record until hearing about the plans in greater detail.
One potential problem is that sponsors that have been able to carve out space at the NFL Experience could become lost on Super Bowl Boulevard, especially in Manhattan.
Some 90,000 fans attended the four-day NFL Experience in New Orleans.
The NFL Experience has been a big part of Super Bowl week since it launched in the Minneapolis Convention Center in 1992. This year’s event was held at the spacious New Orleans Convention Center and was sponsored by GMC. It drew roughly 90,000 fans over four days, with admission running up to $25.
But New York does not have a space as big as the New Orleans Convention Center, Kelly said. Plus, the best space in the city, at the Javits Center, was booked by other groups, including the New York International Gift Fair and other trade shows.
“Even the Javits Center, which we could not get, is quite a bit smaller than the convention center here in New Orleans or the one in Indianapolis,” Kelly said. “We looked at every venue from Greenwich to Princeton, and there just are no places big enough.”
Kelly said the novel site of next year’s game led to the decision with the NFL to try a new approach on the Experience.
“There are so many other firsts about this Super Bowl,” he said. “First outside in cold weather; first with two teams hosting. We thought, let’s do something different with NFLX and that’s how we landed where we landed.”
Staff writer John Ourand contributed to this report.
“We had this recognition that our biggest brands should go with our biggest partnerships,” said Pepsi’s Adam Harter, vice president of consumer engagement, adding that Pepsi will get a lot of MLB support later this year. Pepsi’s amalgam of sports and music with its NFL Anthems program, its Drew Brees/One Direction ad, and the Beyoncé halftime performance also were notable, since so many big brands are trying to crack the code on combining sports and music properties.
“Success for us is being at the heart of pop culture,” said Harter, adding that retail activation, brand equity measures and social media “buzz” will be the three most important metrics in evaluating Pepsi’s Super Bowl marketing investment. “We are thinking a lot less about share of voice and a lot more about share of conversation.”
■ THE EQUALIZER: Steve Tisch, the New York Giants co-owner and film producer with hits such as “Forrest Gump” to his credit, said his next project is a remake of the 1980s TV show “The Equalizer.” Tisch said shooting would begin in Boston in April and would star Denzel Washington.
Tisch, who is the only NFL owner who lives in Los Angeles, said very little is occurring to bring the league back to the city after a two-decade absence. He said a stadium at Chavez Ravine is not necessarily the league’s dream site, contrary to popular wisdom. Many have speculated the league has wanted the site where the Dodgers currently play, but Tisch said the area, located in a residential neighborhood, would be problematic on Monday nights, when games would start at 5:30 p.m. local time.
■ STUFFING THANKSGIVING: One of the annual rites of Super Bowl week is when TV executives visit the NFL to plea for the biggest games on next year’s schedule. In recent years, the Thanksgiving games have drawn substantial interest and show radically different strategies by the networks.
Historically, network executives didn’t care about the matchup, believing a Thanksgiving Day rating remains consistent regardless of who’s playing — and that’s largely how CBS still views Thanksgiving. With that in mind, sources said the network pushed to carry the Raiders-Cowboys game in 2013, preferring to keep its marquee games for other weeks.
Fox, however, thinks differently. In recent years, it has pushed to get strong matchups on Thanksgiving. Last year, it had the Redskins-Cowboys game, a rivalry that draws good ratings. This year, sources said, Fox pushed for the scheduled Giants-Lions game, which would have high interest in New York, the country’s biggest TV market.
As the holder of the NFL’s only prime-time broadcast package, NBC pushes for top draws every week. Last year, for its inaugural Thanksgiving night game, it had Patriots-Jets, but it’s not clear who the broadcaster targeted for Thanksgiving next season.
■ LONG-TERM SUPERSTITION: Bud Light’s seasonlong NFL campaign from Steve Stoute’s Translation agency, which centered on NFL fans’ superstitions and the 1972 Stevie Wonder hit song of the same name, culminated in a performance by Wonder at the Bud Light Hotel Saturday in New Orleans and the musician’s appearance in two Super Bowl ads.
Could Anheuser-Busch extend its “superstition” platform to other sports?
“That’s something we are thinking about right now, because [superstition] is something that’s at the core of every sports fan,” said Bud Light Vice President Mike Sundet, seated in a faux football locker room within the Bud Light Hotel. Bud Light is aligned with A-B’s NFL sponsorship, while Budweiser is the A-B brand paired with MLB and NBA.
So what about applying it to A-B’s UFC or NHL team deals, since MillerCoors snatched away national NHL rights last season?
“We’re asking our agency that,” said Sundet, while acknowledging that superstition will be back as the NFL campaign next season. “The question is whether we would be diluting the [NFL] campaign if we did that.”
Add the Wells Fargo Championship to the list of professional events trying to spur ticket sales through Living Social.
The May 2-5 PGA Tour event launched a Living Social promotion last week, offering a new line of hospitality for $159 on weekdays and $189 on the weekend, per ticket.
The tournament sold 120 tickets for its 16th fairway hospitality tent on the promotion’s first day.
“The goal was to reach people who aren’t coming to the golf tournament,” said Hougham, who oversees one of the tour’s premium events. A recent SportsBusiness Journal survey of tournament directors showed that the Wells Fargo Championship is one of the most admired events on tour.
“The Living Social demographic is not our demographic. It’s younger,” he said. “And we didn’t want to offer discounted tickets, so we created an experience that comes with a single-day hospitality ticket.”
The tournament has had a hospitality structure along the 16th in the past, but it’s been used for corporate events. When Hougham learned that the company in that space last year wasn’t returning, he turned to the Living Social promotion.
Each ticket is good for a lunch buffet, two alcoholic drinks, two non-alcoholic drinks, a climate-controlled tent and shaded outdoor seating along the 16th fairway, a par-4 on what’s known as the “Green Mile,” a difficult stretch of closing holes. Additional food and drink will be available for purchase.
“I was blown away by the number of members they have in the Charlotte market,” Hougham said of Living Social’s 300,000 members in the area. “I think you’re going to see more and more sporting events do this. It’s a more targeted audience that’s used to looking at these things each day, rather than just mass emails.”
Hougham said the hospitality tent’s attendance each day will be capped at 250.
“Living Social told us that sales start slow and build, but 120 the first day is a great start,” he said.