<span style="">As part of the past eight public relations staffs at the Super Bowl, I have been fortunate to work in some of the greatest cities in the United States when they put on "their game faces" during Super Bowl weeks.
I confess to being biased, but in my opinion, nobody does it better than New Orleans. I recently returned from Tampa, where they hosted and pulled off an amazing week of activities, festivities and events surrounding one of the most riveting Super Bowls ever played.
In trying economic times, Tampa pulled off a memorable and special week. In total, roughly 100,000 estimated visitors flocked to the region, thousands of people with working functions descended on the Bay and 151.6 million more tuned in to watch on television.
The exposure for Tampa will surely be felt for the immediate and considerable future as a place where warm weather, great golf courses, spectacular beaches and fabulous restaurants can be easily reached.
I recently studied a report by a distinguished expert in the field of urban economics that stated hosting a Super Bowl can generate between $300-$400 million of positive economical activity to a city/region. In the study, conducted by Dr. David Allardice of the Lawrence Technological University, in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the economist concluded that as recently as three years ago:
- The overall Super Bowl experience generated $310 million of economic activity – which translated into about 5,650 jobs and $124 million of income for the city of Detroit.
- The combined state and local tax generated ranged from $17 million to $22 million.
- The trade and services sectors experienced the greatest impact.
"Each dollar spent on Super Bowls will ripple through the economy. It can have very far-reaching economic effects," Allardice explained. He noted that the impact on some businesses, such as construction or telecommunications, might be spread out over several weeks or months. Thus improvements made to the infrastructure of a city or region based upon the immediate needs of an area will, in actuality, serve as upgrades to a community in general.
New Orleans, which may be in the running for the 2013 Super Bowl, hasn't hosted a Super Bowl since early in the 2002 calendar year. The Saints, eager to promote the city for the 2013 Super Bowl, are working closely in conjunction with Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation in an effort to best position the city to host the upcoming Super Bowl. Ask many regulars who attend Super Bowls each year and you will generally hear that New Orleans is their favorite venue for the "big game" for a variety of reasons: the proximity of the Superdome to the hotels and restaurants, the lively French Quarter, scores and scores of world-class restaurants, friendly and helpful residents, and entertainment seemingly around every corner, to name but a few key selling points.
Super Bowls generally revolve around three main topics: the host city and the two competing NFL teams.
I would venture to guess that there would be few stories in the history of the Super Bowl as heart-warming and moving than to have the global media descend upon New Orleans eight years after Hurricane Katrina. The Super Bowl could serve as a key backdrop to an area that could show the nation the power of teamwork, perseverance and camaraderie in the wake of the most horrific natural disaster to confront a major North American city. The stories would capture the spirit and plight of a great American city that has fought for its very survival in the wake of destruction.
The exposure could very well serve as a catalyst for continued economic opportunities such as the burgeoning film industry that is quickly taking shape in New Orleans. With more and more companies across the nation searching for more affordable and business-friendly environments, New Orleans and Louisiana could positively use the hordes of positive press to further make business leaders at least ponder the idea of relocating major elements of their businesses to our region.
At the very least, it would showcase the city to the scores of business leaders who, at the end of the day, make the ultimate decisions on when and where to host annual conventions and business summits.
"Hosting a Super Bowl is so much more than a game. It's about global visibility, economic impact, competition for conventions and more visitors," said Larry Alexander, President of the Detroit Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
New Orleans, is just so happens, covets conventions, national and international exposure so critical to both business and casual visitors, which needless to say, help drive the local and state economy.
Another intriguing reality that I have witnessed throughout my Super Bowl working forays has been witnessing the spirit of cooperation a city must have in order to successfully maneuver through what is a fun-filled and chaotic ten day period. Businesses, community groups, law enforcement and civic leaders must band together and forge working relationships to ensure smooth operational functions. People and groups that seemingly may not have a reason to reach out and rely on others in normal times suddenly come together in the spirit of cooperation and partnerships are inevitably formed.
It seems to me that there are quite a few economists, and in turn, naysayers, that have a knee-jerk reaction which suggests that the Super Bowl doesn't make a difference in a community. But, in the case of New Orleans, I suggest that in a struggling global economy that any major infusion of money not only will help in the immediate future, but in the long-term future of the city and region. It harkens back to the age old marketing axiom, "I can't afford to pay for advertising," which is met with the tried and true statement, "you can't afford not to advertise."
Show me a critic who scoffs at the notion of bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into a local economy and I will show you someone completely void of social consciousness. For I guarantee that other North American cities will be lining up for the opportunity to bid on hosting future Super Bowls and all that they bring. This is not to suggest for one moment that if New Orleans does indeed submit a bid for the Super Bowl that it's a guarantee to be awarded. Other cities will surely put their best foot forward and the competition will be keen.
Each year when asked to work the Super Bowl, I gladly accept the offer each year knowing full well that the week leading up to the game is a hectic, frantic and fast-paced machine that pushes and pulls you in a million different directions. If its rest and relaxation you are looking for, working the Super Bowl is not a good destination.
Recently in Tampa and from my vantage point, business, from the PR perspective of the NFL, was good.
As Hall of Fame Coach Marv Levy once said of the Super Bowl, "Where would you rather be than right here, right now?"
My duties at the Super Bowl place me squarely in the one place each year where the most prominent members of the national and international sports media convene. One only needs to stroll a few feet away in a massive convention center to see the "Who's Who" in the sports/media world. This year, well over 4,000 members of the media were granted either "week of" or "game credentials." Stories, rumors and camaraderie are in full abundance at the Super Bowl. It is, for the members of the sports media, the place to be. 4,000 members of the just the press. These are the people that share and tell the stories. The stories range from what is happening on the gridiron to bigger stories, such as how local communities are faring.
Millions of dollars are generated each year by communities, companies and civic groups eager to have their stories told. Few cities are fortunate enough to have throngs of media descend upon them with the intent of publicizing their home. It is a unique and desirable situation that rarely comes around.
In addition to the sizable media contingent, an estimated 75,000 paying customers in attendance will embark for multiple night stays. Coupled with the thousands of working personnel that arrive to work in events surrounding the game in a service oriented capacity, the week makes for a cacophony of business opportunities.
Business in Tampa, for those seeking business and those assigned to cover the game, was good.
The representatives of media outlets ranged from some smaller radio stations in far-ranging markets to large contingents from some of the most popular newspapers and magazines and websites, to the largest television and multi-media outlets in the world.
Scanning the landscape around the central downtown business district was buzzing all week. Massive studio set-ups for ESPN and the NFL Network teamed with energy for hundreds of workers on each set. These people certainly were either locals that were picking up long and lucrative hours, while yet others were brought in from out-of-town and were housed and fed in the local hotels and restaurants. For this sizable number of people, work was demanding, yet plentiful. To many people, the on-air talent is all they see when the bright lights are turned on and the cameras roll. However just a few feet away, many people ranging from technicians, to camera operators, hair and makeup specialists, producers, talent coordinators and runners scurried around making sure everything was just right. Satellite trucks guzzled through gallons of fuel, catering trucks were at the ready, and security guards protected the sets from the enthusiastic fans and general onlookers.
Business, for the names that scroll in the credits of television shows, was good.
Inside the convention center, hundreds of radio stations filled a huge ballroom. Ordinary 8x10 tables were made into studios and guests were ferried in to talk football and sports, and in many cases, the state of our economy. Business mixed effortlessly with pleasure. The stations rolled on throughout all hours of the days, broadcasting live from Tampa. Coffee cups, fast food wrappers and soda cans illustrated the training table for those in Tampa, but not in the game. Talk was loose, fast and frenzied. Just the way sports talk radio likes it.
Business, for the radio folks, was good.
In an adjacent room, thousands of writers worked tirelessly at their laptops bringing their readers the news of the days. Deadlines needed to be met and blogs needed updating. Photographers scanned through thousands of images and sent the images back to their desks at their home bases or up to FTP sites. Always, it seemed, there was another press conference or event to get to cover.
Business, for the writers and photographers, was good.
The media center, while the center of my universe for the better part of the week, was just a small part in the big picture during the Super Bowl. A simple drive along the streets of Tampa illustrated the hustle and bustle associated with hosting the preeminent sporting event thrown each year. Daily routines for commuters into the business district were thrown for a bit of a loop as traffic patterns were altered and police officers helped keep pedestrian and motor traffic moving. People walked out of their office buildings just to take in the sights and probably hope for a sighting of a famous person.
Business, for the local vendors and cops picking up overtime, was good.
Newspapers, which if you talk to simply a handful of writers covering the game, are struggling with dwindling subscribers and are trying to find new ways of staying relevant in time sensitive news cycle. Thus the local newspapers in the Tampa area seemingly had "all hands on deck" to cover everything from the media center happenings to VIP parties to everything in-between Super Bowl related. Special sections each day were devoted just to the events surrounding the festivities. For one week, at least, it seemed to me that the writers of those papers had more news at their doorsteps than they could handle.
Business, for the advertising sections of the newspapers, the assignment desk and for general newspaper readership, was good.
Each day, at the conclusion of the long days, groups of people would convene for dinner and the occasional drink at local restaurants and watering holes. Even with reservations, the waits were long because tables and bars were filled with patrons. Prices were often higher than usual, locals remarked for even the most ordinary items. But who was really complaining?
Business, for the restaurants, cafes, pubs and bistros, was good.
In the course of just a few nights, the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL hosted two games and drew larger than usual groups. Thus the bars and restaurants were even more crowded. On two nights, legendary rock group The Eagles played in front of a sold-out crowd at The St. Pete Times Forum, just a few blocks from the media center. Two nights later, comedian Dane Cook packed the same building. Crowds after each show poured into the streets and, in turn, into the bars and restaurants. On Friday night before the game, rapper Snoop Dog helped pack what otherwise would have been an empty parking lot for a free concert. The next night, rockers 3 Doors Down jammed the same parking lot with over 10,000 people, courtesy of Budweiser. I may not be an economist, but something tells me the parking lots might otherwise have been sitting empty. Think about that for a moment: an empty parking lot converted into a concert area with countless kiosks charging for food and drink for 10,000 people. It reminded me of the saying from "Field of Dreams," "Build it and they will come."
Business, for entertainers and merchants, was good.
Even with so much to offer directly in the vicinity of the hotel, one night I made plans to meet up with a few friends about 10 miles away for dinner. After a short wait for a cab, I was ferried off to meet up with my acquaintances from out of town. I asked the cab driver how business was and he remarked, "The best it has ever been. I don't want to sleep. I'm making more this weekend than I made all last month. I will get out of my credit card debt by Saturday night, and I had serious debt."
Business, for the service industry, was good.
Upon returning to my hotel later, one couldn't help witnessing how crowded the lobby was, it was so crowded, in fact, that make-shift bars were strategically set-up to handle the overflow crowd. This, mind you, was a nightly occurrence. Another stand was set-up stocked with officially licensed merchandised memorabilia in the lobby and people were three-and-four deep waiting to purchase keepsakes from their time in Tampa. A friend of mine who ventured to Tampa from Pittsburgh for the game didn't have a major issue forking over $250 a night for a very budget-oriented hotel (four-night stay required). "I should have gone to the game in Detroit a few years ago," he said. "But you never know when or if your team will ever be back. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity if you're a real fan. I can suck it up and take the hit."
I asked him why he didn't make a reservation at a hotel closer to the action, and he responded, "Everything else was booked solid."
Business, for hotels, was good.
I'm quite sure that I saw just the tip of the iceberg in my week in Tampa. I went to just a few events. Dined at middle-of-the-road eateries and did what most people these days are doing, I watched each dollar spent, as I weighed necessity versus luxury. It's the way things are done in this economy.
Simply by living in a downtown hotel for a week, I spent my money in a city I otherwise would not have. Did I spend enough to leave "an economic footprint?" as one writer suggested. No, I'm fairly certain I did not.
But I am willing to venture a guess that some of the big companies that were front and center all week, such as FedEx, Pepsi, Electronic Arts, Gatorade and countless others sure did. I counted nearly 100 pre-scheduled officially sanctioned events during the week. There were probably two or three times that amount, but just were not listed in the NFL's week of events manual. Events generally require a few things at the bare minimum: a location, signage, promotions, audio and visual aides, representation and food and beverage. These all cost money to purchase or rent and money that stays in the community and are taxable.
Ask the cab drivers, or the waitresses, or the countless of other people in Tampa what they think of hosting a Super Bowl, and I will venture to guess that the answer will be: "Business, for at least this one week, was very good."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, at his State of the League press conference at the Tampa Convention Center, summed up what the Super Bowl meant to Tampa. "The fans of the NFL will be here for several days," he said. "And they'll spend lots of money. It's a chance for everyone to come together and root for their favorite team, be a part of this special day and forget about their troubles, forget about what's going on around the world."
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said that when Tampa was first awarded the Super Bowl for 2009, it was a matter of civic pride. However in the current economic environment, the Super Bowl took on added importance.
"My hope is a lot of people who are in the service industry will really benefit from this. People who are suffering because of this poor economy, people who are in the restaurant business, waiters and waitresses, people who are in the transportation business, like taxi drivers. The county also stands to benefit from increased sales taxes as well as taxes paid in hotels," she said.
That, in essence, is the true working model of a real middle-class stimulus package.
Which is exactly why the Super Bowl is so important to not only New Orleans, but any other city with aspirations of hosting the game. The impact of hosting a Super Bowl is far-reaching and is leaves such a positive legacy on the community, if done properly, that it simply boggles the mind to think that a community that has an opportunity to host the game wouldn't whole-heartedly embrace and drive the effort. Especially for a city so dependent on attracting people to town to support their service industries.
For many, the term "discernible impact" is mighty relevant these days. Maybe even to some people $400 million churning through the local economic engine is enough to turn a blind eye toward. Kudos to them, in that case, for they needn't really fret over the future of the Crescent City.
To quote Mark Singletary of New Orleans City Business, " ... the Saints give us honor, our fandom and connect with the fight we have for our city's future. We needed a symbol (in the time of greatest distress) and we found it right there in that little, old fleur-de-lis - in black and gold."
From what I have been so fortunate to be able to witness, there is no bigger positive discernible event to a city than the Super Bowl.
Martin Fletcher, from NBC News, captured what the Saints have meant to New Orleans in the post-Katrina environment when he wrote, "The Saints have worked a minor miracle. They have contributed as much to the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as any political leader, government agency or corporate entity."
After all, at the end of the day, don't we want business to be good? Or better yet, better than ever?