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Volume 21 No. 31
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Nomadic turning eyesore into Super Bowl party central

The Minneapolis Armory will get new life for Super Bowl LII.
Jack Murphy, the master creator of Super Bowl parties for the last 27 years, last season built a three-level party venue from scratch in a vacant Houston parking lot.

How does he top that for Super Bowl LII in Minnesota? Well, he’s got an idea.

Murphy first saw the rundown, 82-year-old Minneapolis Armory 14 months ago. A local developer had taken on the project of finding a new purpose for the historic old building that was becoming a downtown eyesore.

But when Murphy walked into the structure, which sits just two blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium, he was overcome by its state of disrepair.

“The inside was in the middle of a demolition. There was pigeon poop everywhere,” said Murphy, president of Nomadic Entertainment Group, the agency he founded to produce big events. “People were running away from the place.”

Murphy, though, had an idea for the 300,000-square-foot facility that most recently had been used as a parking garage in downtown Minneapolis. Beyond the pigeons, Murphy saw the potential to stage the biggest Super Bowl LII parties, just as he’s done for almost three decades.

Now, the building’s renovation is almost complete and it will be known as Nomadic Live! at The Armory, which will host three straight nights of music and entertainment leading up to the Super Bowl.

The final stamp of approval came in recent weeks when AT&T and its DirecTV service signed on to become title sponsor of the night before the Super Bowl (Feb. 3). It will be branded DirecTV Now Super Saturday Night, as it was in Houston.

The talent has not been announced yet, but Taylor Swift performed last season, and DirecTV has a track record of putting on one of the biggest parties in sports, so the bar is set pretty high.

Tickets to the show will sell through Ticketmaster at price points that are expected to start at $250 for general admission.

The Super Bowl’s official hospitality packages sold by On Location Experiences, which is Nomadic’s parent company, also will have options that include the DirecTV party. On Location acquired Nomadic last year, making this the second Super Bowl they’ve worked together.

That DirecTV is back for its 12th straight year as a title sponsor for Murphy’s Saturday night show is no surprise. But Murphy has always worked on one-year contracts and the AT&T acquisition of DirecTV in 2015 made him nervous.

“You always get worried when there’s a transition,” he said. “You’re building a whole new relationship. But it couldn’t have gone any better.”

AT&T/DirecTV’s title sponsorship will be announced this week. Title sponsors for the first two nights will be named in the coming weeks. PepsiCo and EA Sports were title sponsors in recent years.

These title sponsorships are believed to run in the low seven figures, industry insiders say. Associate sponsorships go for the six figures.

Title sponsorship costs used to run much higher, approaching eight figures, until the Phoenix Super Bowl in 2015. That’s when Murphy went from one big Saturday night show to a three-day music festival.

A one-off event like Nomadic produced in the past lumped all of the expenses onto one night and one sponsor. But expanding to three nights — the Thursday, Friday and Saturday prior to Super Bowl Sunday — spread the costs across three title sponsors, thereby reducing their costs and making it financially easier for them to keep coming back.

Last season’s event in Houston was the first for Murphy to work with AT&T’s creative services division, which is the company’s in-house ad agency.

Roger Hyde, the senior vice president for AT&T’s creative services, and Rob Ichelson, AT&T’s assistant vice president of marketing, serve as the primary points of contact for Murphy as they work together in year two.

Hyde and Ichelson not only will oversee the 2,000-plus guests they’ll be hosting in the Armory, which will have a capacity of close to 8,000. They also work with Nomadic on subtle but important changes year-to-year. In Minneapolis, for example, where the winter weather will be harsher than Houston, AT&T and Nomadic carved out an indoor space where partygoers will wait to enter the venue so they won’t be exposed to the elements.

AT&T intends to use that waiting area as its prime activation zone to show off its products and services.

“We’ve made that space part of the experience,” Hyde said. “Over the years, DirecTV has built up a lot of equity. It’s synonymous with the best party in town, so that’s the experience we have to deliver.”

The Armory’s interior will have three tiers, providing segmented spaces for general admission, AT&T’s guests, corporate hospitality and special guests from the NFL, Showtime and Mark Cuban’s AXS TV, among others who will bring additional A-list celebrities to the event.

“We’re joined at the hip,” Hyde said of AT&T and Nomadic. “I think you can say that we both own the success of what this has become.”

As if Murphy won’t be busy enough at the Armory, he’s taking on another project just outside Minneapolis.

Club Nomadic at Mystic Lake Casino will feature four nights of music and entertainment at the hotel resort. Nomadic is building a 64,000-square-foot pop-up party place on the Mystic Lake grounds, which are 26 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis.

The Mystic Lake club will operate separately from the Armory. Sponsorship rights do not extend from one location to the other. But Mystic will provide Super Bowl partygoers with another entertainment option. Talent has not been announced yet.