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SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies
NY Super Bowl won’t catch NFL out in the cold
Contingency plan could bring game delay if blizzard strikes
Published February 11, 2013, Page 1
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The league is considering various options that include the possibility of delaying the contest several days in the event of a weather emergency on game day. The league even could decide to play the game on Saturday if faced with an ominous forecast, sources said.
|The NFL’s contigency plans leave open the possibility of rescheduling the game if a blizzard hits New York.
“We have to look at all the angles: storm arriving day-of-game, storm arriving prior to game, storm arriving after game,” one source said.
If the game, set for Feb. 2, has to be rescheduled, a host of complications would arise. For example, if the game were played later than on Sunday, fans would have to reschedule flights, something that would become especially problematic considering potential airport closings. Hotel accommodations also would come into play, as fans would need to extend their stays.
Similar problems would occur if the game is moved to Saturday, since some ticket holders do not arrive until the day of game.
“You know it will be a lot cooler, but there will be a lot of people and transportation issues regardless,” said Jeff Miller, NFL vice president of security. “When you have a lot of moving parts and large crowds, you are moving on transportation systems already overloaded with daily commuters, so you’ve got some issues to deal with.”
While New Orleans returned to the Super Bowl rotation with its game earlier this month, the talk among industry executives during the week was of next February, with an eye on New York and a focus on the uncertainties of staging such a large event in a potentially frigid city. The league has held Super Bowls in cold weather climates before, but always in stadiums with roofs.
The league was especially fortunate last year in Indianapolis, where mild temperatures held steady through the week.
But next year’s game is seen as the test case for future cold-weather-climate Super Bowls. Most are bracing for what is expected to be unparalleled interest.
The league is prepared for significant demand for tickets and hospitality, with some veteran sponsors predicting record-high prices for both.
“The challenge I see is that the stadium is only so big and demand is far going to exceed availability,” said Dave Wintergrass, the NFL’s senior director of events.
Wintergrass directs NFL On Location, which sells on-site Super Bowl hospitality packages ranging from $3,949 to $8,849 per person. “We had requests to leave deposits since last October.”
Media presence during Super Bowl week also is expected to be greater than normal, especially since all of the major broadcasting companies have extensive studio space in and around Manhattan. The increased broadcast attention will follow from what happened this year in New Orleans, where CBS essentially took over Jackson Square, a popular landmark in New Orleans.
“We will still have a presence in New York, but we don’t know what that will be yet,” said David Berson, executive vice president of CBS Sports and president of CBS Sports Network. “We envision it will be a different approach from this year, when it’s our game.”
Fox Sports, which holds the rights to next year’s Super Bowl, was mum on its plans for New York, mainly because it still hasn’t officially announced its plans to launch the all-sports channel Fox Sports 1 in August.
Fox has identified the New York Super Bowl as a big opportunity to build the Fox Sports 1 brand and is planning to carry several New York-based events in the run-up to the game, including college basketball games, a U.S. women’s national soccer team game from Yankee Stadium and a UFC event from the Prudential Center.
Much like CBS Sports this year, Fox Sports will have an extensive set for Fox Sports 1, most likely on or near Super Bowl Boulevard, which will run along Broadway from 34th to 44th streets (see related story, Page 1). Plus, it plans to share talent between the broadcast network and the cable channel and will use Fox News’ studios liberally.
In years past, ESPN virtually owned Super Bowl week, carrying out its motto that it owns everything around the Super Bowl but the game. ESPN has always built the biggest sets and produced the most TV hours around the game.
Once NFL Network launched, the two channels shared the market. Now, the NFL’s other TV partners, and their all-sports cable channels, are taking part, too.
ESPN hasn’t made its decisions about New York yet but has been looking for locations that combine a good backdrop of the city with heavy foot traffic.
It’s the size and everyday clutter of New York that dominated conversations in New Orleans, as concerned marketers stressed it will make social, digital and street marketing efforts much more important.
“The Super Bowl is always a noisy marketing environment, as is New York,” said Alex Craddock, head of Visa North America marketing. “We think that will be tempered by more people interacting with a Super Bowl city than ever. All of our programs have a social component now, so we’ll ratchet that up to a level that fits both New York and the Super Bowl.”
It’s not just New York’s cluttered marketing environment that will be difficult, marketers say. It will be figuring out how to activate with fans in the market, as well.
“We are more concerned about the logistics of it all than the marketing,” said Carolyn Eckert, sponsorship, promotions and creative services manager at NFL sponsor Castrol. “I can’t see anyone doing grand scale efforts [outside]. We’re going to have to rethink our activation with fans. You can’t really put big build-outs on the street; New York City won’t allow that. So I think it gets down to more street marketing teams, social media, along with customer-engagement events.”
Even top hospitality companies aren’t quite sure what to expect, though they are confident sales will be big.
“Demand will be there. It already is,” said Keith Bruce, whose SportsMark runs NFL House and was executing Super Bowl hospitality in New Orleans for 10 clients, including Visa and CBS. “Operationally, it’s going to be very difficult … because a lot of people won’t want to sit outside.”