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Volume 23 No. 13
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NFL to co-produce annual Super Bowl fan fest

The NFL for the first time will co-produce the annual Super Bowl fan fest with the local host committee, the latest effort by the league to have more say and control over the week leading up to the game.

The league liked how San Francisco linked fan attractions with themes and colors.
In San Francisco for Super Bowl 50 in February, the host committee spent $10 million of its $60 million budget on what it called Super Bowl City. Houston’s version, Super Bowl Live, will be staged downtown in a 750,000-square-foot space twice as large as San Francisco’s. The host committee is working with the NFL, which is contributing financially, to stage the spectacle.

“This will give the fan a seamless experience,” said Ric Campo, chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, which has a $63 million budget, in explaining why he chose to align with the NFL on production. “In San Francisco … there was one experience at the NFL Experience, which was good; and there was another experience down at [Super Bowl City a mile away]. … Go into this one, you come out of it, you have this other experience [and] the branding, the colors” are the same.

Super Bowl week has long been a winding march of events, parties and marketing that the league had only a small hand in. In May, owners voted to strip the NFC and AFC champions of some of their ticket allotments and shift them to league-affiliated hospitality provider On Location. The firm now has about 20,000 Super Bowl tickets with which to craft travel packages.

The league is also believed to be eyeing a way to get a role in some of the major Super Bowl parties.

Working with the host committee on Super Bowl Live will also negate tensions that sometime arose between local sponsors, critical to bankrolling the week, and league backers. Host committees must vet their sponsors with the league to ensure there are no conflicts.

In Houston, the 16 founding partners will get an acre and a half stretch in the fan festival to promote Houston, Campo said. The companies will not activate around a typical sponsorship, Campo said, but instead work together to promote the city. NFL sponsors will have access to the fan fest.

Keith Bruce, who ran the Super Bowl host committee in San Francisco, said he expects the Houston model will be the one that the league uses going forward. The league liked how San Francisco linked the mile walk between the NFL Experience and Super Bowl City with themes and colors, Bruce said, and that led to the concept of working with the host committee to create a consistent production.

The NFL did not reply for comment.

The concept of the fan village began with Super Bowl 46 in Indianapolis, which was run by an executive, Mark Miles, with experience in international sports, where compact fan areas are common. The Indy Super Bowl was an unexpected hit, and that moved the NFL to quickly push host cities to consolidate areas for fans and events.