Big Joe Henry’s inside look into the Super Bowl experience
With all the changes that COVID-19 has put upon all of us now we find out that it will affect arguably the world’s biggest sporting event, this year’s Super Bowl. I’ve been to five Super Bowls as both a guest of the NFL and when I worked for NBC-TV. The pomp and circumstance surrounding the Super Bowl is usually so over the top it’s literally amazing.
Planning for the “Big Game” takes place years in advance. Sights are voted on by the owners usually 4 – 5 years in advance of the game, and the game day operations people at the NFL then secure and pick the hotels, one for each of the teams playing and one for the NFL before the sight is released to the public.
The marketing staff at the NFL select sight attractions to reserve for elaborate NFL parties and celebrations. For example, I got to attend the first year that Tampa held the Super Bowl. The NFL threw the commissioners party which is usually held on Friday night the weekend of the game and it was held at the Epcot Center at Disney World in Orlando. Buses took the NFL VIPs over and back to the hotel. The party was amazing, the NFL spending hundreds of dollars a head on outstanding food, drinks and entertainment with NFL royalty and past Hall of Fame players mingling with sponsors and friends of the NFL.
Saturday night was usually the network party which was just as elaborate with outstanding food, open bar and live entertainment and the crowd enjoyed the celebrities from that network who joined in the fun.
Sunday morning, game day was held at Busch Gardens where the NFL had rented out the entire amusement park for their invited guests. The main room at Busch Gardens had a brunch with 30 dishes representing each team in the NFL. There were three bands playing in three different rooms, after the brunch and enjoying the amusement park, we boarded the luxury buses which had beer and wine on board and were given a police escort to the stadium to arrive before kickoff. Of course we had the buses back to the hotel after the game and enjoyed a final cocktail or two in the NFL suite. It was a weekend I so enjoyed and I was fortunate enough to do that five times. The NFL knew how to throw a party and they knew how to sell their product.
Last year advertisers paid $5.5 million for a :30 second commercial spot, which was $500,000 over the year before. It was one of the most watched programs in the history of television. This year some large advertisers like Anheuser Busch Coca-Cola have cut back and eliminated some of their spots. Other major advertisers who have been a part of Super Bowls past have passed on this year’s game.
Advertising executives say that viewers for this year’s Super Bowl game will be down. I disagree. The millions of fans that went to bars, restaurants and the large gatherings at people’s homes will now be at their home watching the game actually causing an increase in the number of TV’s being watched, which increases ratings. We’ll see how that shakes out.
Tickets to last year’s Super Bowl were being scalped for thousands of dollars. My have times changed in just a year! This year so many changes will take place because of COVID-19. Only 22,000 fans will be allowed into the stadium in Tampa Bay. Gone are the elaborate parties and huge gatherings, The halftime show by the entertainer The Weekend will be virtual and pre-taped unlike past live performances.
Teams in the Super Bowl usually arrive a week or eight days before the game will now arrive two days before the game as per the NFL’s coronavirus protocol. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a nice advantage that for the first time will be home for the Super Bowl and won’t travel but they will check into a local hotel for security and transportation ease. The large press day usually held at the stadium will be held virtually or be cancelled.
What won’t change will be the game. The players will be pumped up and ready to go. You have very few chances in the sport of football to play for a championship and get that world championship ring. Every player will do their best to prepare and play above a level they never knew that they could achieve.
I’m looking forward to the game and I am so lucky to have enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of America’s biggest sporting event, The Super Bowl. Enjoy the game.
CHECK IT OUT: See the 100 most popular brands in America