SBJ/Jan. 20-26, 2014/Super Bowl

Future hosts get a jump on preparation, PR

Everyone knows Arizona is a great place to visit, but the desert is a pretty good place to do business too. That’s the message Jay Parry, CEO of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, hopes to start spreading when she heads to this year’s Super Bowl next week.

Parry will be touting Arizona’s business community during Super Bowl week.
Parry and eight of her staff members will observe the operations of the nearly weeklong New York/New Jersey spectacle to see what might work and what might not work as they prepare to host Super Bowl XLIX a year from now. But the larger goal for Parry, beyond staging the country’s most visible sporting event, is to create a long-term business legacy for Arizona.

“We will use the platform to tell the new story of Arizona: We are progressive, inclusive, and we are ready and open for business,” said Parry, who most recently was senior vice president of brand and business development for the Phoenix Suns. She also spent seven seasons as president and COO of the WNBA Phoenix Mercury. “One of the biggest stories we want to tell on behalf of our stakeholders,” Parry said, “is that we have room to grow.”

Those stakeholders include the communities that neighbor Glendale, Ariz., site of University of Phoenix Stadium, where the game will be played. These communities, such as Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, have each contributed funds to the committee in exchange for, among other considerations, having their respective hotels included in the game’s official room block. Other partners include the Santa Cruz Valley-based Ak-Chin Indian Community, which hopes its sponsorship of next year’s game has a long-term payoff as well.

“The Super Bowl will be the market’s first post-recession mega-event,” Parry said, “so our job is to position our partners to benefit from a post-Super Bowl comet-tail effect.”

Arizona last hosted the Super Bowl in 2008.

During next week’s site visit, Parry said her team will be taking a close look at how their New York/New Jersey counterparts are implementing Business Connect, the NFL initiative that helps small and minority business owners in NFL markets get league-related business. Next week also will see Arizona spotlighted through two committee-produced spots — one 30 seconds in length, one 15 seconds — that will appear on video boards in Times Square as part of the NFL’s continuous advertising loop related to this year’s game. On Wednesday, Jan. 29, the group will host an invitation-only media event to begin to tell, and sell, their local story.

Parry is charged with promoting a region, rather than just a city, because similar to this year’s Super Bowl footprint, Arizona’s game will be spread across more than one locale. While the game will be in Glendale, Phoenix (which is about 15 miles away) will host the NFL Experience, the sprawling interactive theme park that has become a staple at the event. (NFL Experience is missing from this year’s Super Bowl lineup but it is scheduled to return next year.) Phoenix also will host the league’s Super Bowl Boulevard effort and will be the site for the media center headquarters for the more than 5,000 credentialed reporters, photographers and commentators who cover the game.

Parry said next week’s trip will cost “a couple hundred thousand dollars” and that the committee’s overall budget to successfully stage the game and promote the region will top $25 million. By comparison, the New York/New Jersey group is spending $70 million for this year’s Super Bowl, the most ever for the event. Last year’s game in New Orleans cost about $12 million locally. Those costs are specific to the host committee’s efforts. The NFL operates the Super Bowl game itself and covers the majority of the game-day costs.

Arizona won’t be the only future Super Bowl host present in New York for this year’s game. Keith Bruce, CEO of the Super Bowl L host committee in Santa Clara, Calif., will be on hand, as well.

California hosted 10 of the first 32 Super Bowls but has been shut out since 2003. The debut of the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium is months away, and the footprint for the 2016 Super Bowl is still preliminary, so the goal for Bruce and the four to six people he is taking with him to this year’s game is to observe and to come away with what he called “the institutional knowledge” needed to stage the game. Although the committee will not be doing any marketing while in New York and New Jersey, Bruce’s eventual strategy is to tout the history of the game itself as well as the massive Bay Area.

“We’re hosting the golden anniversary of the game, in the Golden State, so we are so honored to be hosting such a significant event,” he said. “Secondly, this is a Bay Area regional event, so we’ll be selling the whole region: North Bay, South Bay, East Bay, San Francisco, Monterrey peninsula, the Silicon Valley, wine country — they’re all part of our personality.”

Sallie Sargent, executive director of Houston’s 2017 host committee, will lead a group of eight municipal, stadium and convention center executives to the Meadowlands as representatives of that future Super Bowl. Sargent noted the production of the game and its ancillary events, as well as the city of Houston itself, have changed considerably since the city last hosted the Super Bowl, in 2004.

For example: The city has branded a 35-block downtown area as Super Bowl El Centro. Within that footprint, the George R. Brown Convention Center will be the site of the NFL Experience and media center (as it was in 2004), but across the street, Discovery Green, a 12-acre public park, will host the city’s version of Super Bowl Boulevard. That space, a decade ago, was a parking lot.

Whereas Parry hopes to convince businesses to drop anchor in the desert, and Bruce will market the diversity of the Bay, Sargent said her approach will be of a combination of those goals.

“There is a huge push in Houston right now to get what we believe is the city’s perception to be more tightly aligned with the reality,” she said. “There’s a perception that you can do a lot of good business in Houston, but that’s about it. It’s really a culturally and ethnically diverse city.”

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