Tebow could give Indy a huge economic lift

December 12, 2011
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Early this NFL season, IBJ ran an article about which teams playing in the 2012 Super Bowl in Lucas Oil Stadium would have the biggest financial impact on Indianapolis.

Sports economists said the ultimate match-up might be the New York Jets versus the Chicago Bears. Two big-market teams with major fan bases that extend far beyond their city borders could drive up the economic impact by tens of millions of dollars, they theorized.

There also were votes for the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys because those fan bases were so hungry for a championship. Detroit and Chicago also were attractive because they’re so close to Indianapolis.

The conclusion was that almost any team with a major brand—like the Cowboys or Green Bay Packers—would bring a strong fan base to the Super Bowl Host city.

A month after that article ran, IBJ hosted a roundtable discussion where six of the city’s most well-known sports and tourism leaders pondered the short- and long-term effects Indianapolis’ first Super Bowl would have on the Circle City.

During that gathering, Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association CEO Leonard Hoops said something many others had overlooked: While the most immediate economic impact will come from the 100,000 fans that will come to Indianapolis to be a part of the Feb. 5 Super Bowl and the run-up to it, the biggest long-term impact may come from those watching on television and the image of the host city that is burned into their memory.

“It’d be interesting to figure out what’s the net present value of the 100 million people watching TV,” Hoops said. “I can tell you from an ICVA perspective, if it were teams from bigger media markets—therefore people from those markets paid more attention and were getting a little bit more of the message as opposed to eating guacamole and doing whatever—in theory, that could lead to a little more long-term economic value for the city.”

I like Hoops’ theory, except for one thing. I don’t think in this NFL season, the team from the biggest markets would necessarily drive the biggest TV ratings. I think the teams with the biggest, most intriguing story would.

And the biggest story this year is Tim Tebow. A very, very close second is the Packers’ undefeated run, and if it continues I think that story line could surpass Tebow.

I said could. If Denver’s streak runs deep into the playoffs (and that’s a big if right now) this story will blow up, even by NFL standards.

When I talked to sports business experts in September, no one picked Denver as a team that Indianapolis should cheer for because they would bring a major following or the big pay-off everyone here is rightfully hoping for. Of course, that’s when Tebow was sitting on the bench as a second- or third-stringer.

But now there can be little doubt that if Tebow’s incredible run (the 8-5 Broncos are 7-1 with Tebow starting) somehow, someway lands in Lucas Oil Stadium for the NFL’s biggest game, there’s little doubt—in my mind anyway—it’d deliver one of the biggest Super Bowl ratings ever.

If the Tebow-led Broncos meet the undefeated Packers, Katie bar the door.

The Packers’ 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Super Bowl in Texas last year drew a U.S. TV audience of 111 million, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Inc.

Yes, some people are tiring of Tebowmania. But for every one of them, there are 10 who are riveted by this unconventional quarterback who seems to have the nine lives of a cat and the strength of bumblebee wings, which according to biologists are theoretically too small to make its bumbly body fly.

Tebow is loved by many and hated by others. He’s unquestionably one of the most polarizing figures in sports right now. He is constantly surrounded by drama on the field and people can’t wait to hear what he’ll say next off of it.

If Denver miraculously slips past the likes of Pittsburgh, New England and Baltimore, I don’t think 125 million or more TV viewers for the 2012 Super Bowl is unbelievable. With Tebow playing, you’d have people who don’t even know what the letters N-F-L stand for watching the game.

When you score the kinds of TV viewership numbers the Super Bowl does year after year, it’s not easy to move that needle in a substantial way.It takes something special to do that. It takes something—or someone—maybe a little unbelievable.

May I introduce to you Tim Tebow?

  • Where is the Superbowl Return on Investment
    I don't think Indy will get any TV promotional value from the Superbowl beyond a few skyline shots and a couple mentions that have no real impact.

    City leadership has had years to develop a plan to maximize the economic benefit from the Superbowl, however, they need to recoup at least $25 million, plus tens of millions in private/public security expenses and tax giveaways.

    I hope they prove the skeptics wrong that this will be the worst sports deal since hosting the World Basketball Championships in 2002 that bankrupted the Indiana Sports Corp.

    How Much Is the Superbowl Costing Indianapolis and Indiana Taxpayers?

  • Denver and Packers Yes
    It will happen just this way. Tebow will against all odds defeat the packers in the SB! Yes he will win it all this year and the experts will go crazy!!! haha
  • Imagine
    Can you imagine if Tebow takes Denver to the Super Bowl. It would be the most watched tv show in the history of TV. Prayer cured my cancer. Tebow is building a hospital for Phillipine orphans and instead of the mile high salute he is is doing the divine salute and kneeling. God has blessed Tebow his entire life.
  • I am still humored by the conspiracy theorists who claim this is going to cost the taxpayers millions and there will be no national exposure and Indy will be worse off for hosting it.

    Indy has the commitments, my company has given a large chunk. if you have ever been conscience during a Superbowl week, you have seen about every network and cable station broadcasting from the host city.

    Sure we are going to pay for public safety and increased services, but even if it cost a million dollars, the payback in direct taxes, indirect taxes and national exposure would be paid back several hundred times.
  • Really/
    Tebow making or not making the Super Bowl isn't going to have any significant economic impact on Indy. The bottom line is that the tv viewing numbers will have very little impact on us and will be about the same regardless of which teams are playing. As for people coming to Indy, again most of that is going to be the same regardless of who is playing. The big economic impact is going to come from the high rollers (and the partys they will attend, etc.) that will come regardless of who is playing. Lets face it...the game is going to be sold out no matter who plays in it and the high rollers will come no matter who is in the game. That really only leaves one area to draw in more revenue. That area is bringing fans to town to soak in the atmosphere that will not be attending the game. If you are looking for people to come to Indy just to take in the Super Bowl atmosphere and be a part of their team's experience without attending the game than you definitely want teams within a reasonable distance. Chicago, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, etc. are the teams you want from that perspective. Once you start to get teams whose fanbases are much more than six or seven hours away the number of fans that will come to Indy without any intention of attending the actual game drops off dramatically. So, while Tim Tebow would be an interesting story it would have little to no economic impact on Indy. You might even argue the opposite as hardcore religous types don't tend to be big hospitality (food, drink, party, etc.) spenders. That's why while religious conventions do bring money to town they don't have near the spending more person of other conventions that are much more attractive.

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  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

  2. When the Indiana GOP was going around the State selling the Voucher bill they were promising people that the vouchers would only be for public charter schools. They lied. As usual.

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  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.