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Volume 20 No. 42
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Party planners find pluses, challenges in Indy

There are some of the same complaints about pricing and availability of party space in Indianapolis this week as there are about hotel rooms. However, for the most part, hospitality veterans are cheered by a Midwestern, downtown location, where people need things to do indoors.

While concerned about the climate and the lack of upscale hotel rooms, hospitality specialists cited the centralized location of Indianapolis and the hype regarding a matchup of the two teams involved in the game as strong points for good business.

“In Phoenix [in 2008], having these two teams didn’t affect things at all,” said QuintEvents CEO Brian Learst, noting the first time the Patriots and the Giants met. “But this time, it will, and it is.”

Learst said upper-tier, “get in” game tickets were going for around $2,200 last week at the lowest price.

Demand for the usual big parties is high also.

Last year’s weather in Dallas made outdoor events rare and pushed events indoors.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
Playboy party tickets were being sold by QuintEvents for $1,500.

On Saturday night, Maxim’s 12th annual Super Bowl party, long considered a “must-attend” event, will be held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds (where the league’s commissioner’s party will be held on Friday night), and tickets can be had for $2,000, Learst said.

“A challenge in Indy has been the lack of venues that can fit a party of our size combined with the weather factor,” said Maxim event planner Tracy Kessler. Party sponsors this year include Patrón, Coca-Cola Zero and Tabasco. “This one party provides a branding opportunity not only for the magazine, but for its advertisers,” Kessler said.

Over the years, magazines have found the Super Bowl to be a good venue for hospitality and branding. Most pros said the formula is to sell enough sponsorships so that you can come close to breaking even.

ESPN’s eighth Next party will be held Friday night at the 40,000-square-foot Jobsite Supply Warehouse, with 2,000 guests expected. Sponsors include Dunkin’ Donuts, which will be sampling coffee and Munchkins outside the event; Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice, with a green-screen photo op; and Vicks, with “warming stations” in and around the party. Maker’s Mark is the spirits sponsor and Bud Light is showcasing its new Bud Light Platinum, which has 6 percent alcohol by volume, compared with 4.2 percent for Bud Light.

Van Heusen’s Institute of Style will be giving away ties and bracelets at the event and hosting a silent auction. Powerade is also sampling, along with Snickers. LG will be tweeting from the event.

“We really go after having the title of ‘best party,’” said Alyssa Muenkel, associate director of event marketing for ESPN, whose first Next party was the last time the Giants and Patriots met, in 2008. As far as ROI on the event? “The Super Bowl is where our brand should be, so maybe it’s as simple as that,” Muenkel said.

Sports Illustrated does not have a party scheduled this year. SI spokesman Scott Novak said, simply, “The numbers didn’t work for us.”

Moves Magazine is also skipping its annual party after five consecutive years. Publisher and CEO Scott Miller said Indy’s weather and the cost of a party relative to prior Super Bowls convinced him to host an event around the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando this year instead.

New to the magazine party scene is Rolling Stone, diving in with a Saturday night party at the Crane Bay, another rehabbed space.

“Our idea is to make this self-liquidating, get our brand out there, tie in some business and make some of our business partners happy,” said Rolling Stone Publisher Matt Mastrangelo. “If we get out of this OK, we’re looking forward to doing it again in New Orleans next year.”

Bacardi, celebrating its 150th anniversary, is title sponsoring a 1,200- to 1,300-person Saturday night gig, while VW is sponsoring a 3,000-person tailgate on Sunday afternoon. Each has top-name musical talent. The Saturday event is $1,000, while a tailgate ticket is $500.

What started as a beach party has evolved into the sixth annual Beach Bash for DirecTV, holding a public concert for 10,000 people Saturday afternoon and a private party for 2,500 at the city’s downtown Class AAA ballpark, Victory Field.

The challenges of location caused DirecTV to buy a 54,000-square-foot tent to house the event. “This is a nice statement for us and we can tie in our sponsors well,” said Jon Gieselman, senior vice president of marketing for DirecTV. “At the end of the day, we try to pull off an event that has a halo on the brand.”

Within the orgy of excess that is the Super Bowl, there is room for philanthropy. The Giving Back Fund is holding its fourth Big Game Big Give shindig, this time on Friday night at a 30,000-square-foot space within the Super Bowl Village downtown. There’s a 250-person, invitation-only VIP event, hosted by producer/director Michael Bay, expanding into a 2,000-person fundraiser with Wyclef Jean entertaining.

Tickets are $750 for the VIP event and $150 for the larger affair.