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Volume 21 No. 1
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NFL Experience will bow out to Broadway

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.

“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.

Kelly said the Super Bowl Boulevard will be able to house much of the sponsor activity that occurs during the NFL Experience.

“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.
“As a marketer, you can get lost at any Super Bowl,” said Greg Via, Gillette’s global director of sports marketing. “New York just takes it up a notch. It will probably produce more street marketing and those parties of 10,000 and more people will be more select. Any time you do something in New York City, you know it will be more difficult, so you kind of put on your armor and prepare.”

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.