Hosting another Super Bowl could deliver diminished return

February 6, 2012
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There’s a part of me that thinks Indianapolis should NEVER host another Super Bowl.

I know, after the week we’ve had here in central Indiana, it sounds crazy.

I’m sure our image is going to get a major boost and I’m betting the tally for direct visitor spending is going to be very near a record $200 million for the week.

But something Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association CEO Leonard Hoops told me last week has stuck with me.

He said a city never gets as big a brand boost as it does from its very first Super Bowl. Hoops said another thing that struck me: You don’t host a Super Bowl for the direct visitor spending alone. You do it largely for the marketing bounce and the follow-up convention and tourism business that it drives.

Right now, after a week of temperatures in the 40s and 50s, little rain and even less snow, and with 8,000 volunteers more full of cheer than a band of elves at Christmas, this city is riding an all-time high.

And if another Super Bowl comes to Indianapolis, I fear our bubble could burst.

The Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee said Monday morning that it could try to land another Super Bowl as soon as 2017. And positive responses from NFL officials about this year's event are leading them to believes it's a possibility.

It’s true the Indiana Sports Corp. and the engine that hosts these types of events are unrivaled nationally. Much bigger cities have tried and failed to mimic what Indianapolis has done. Chicago is the latest.

But let’s face it: Indianapolis never had to face its most feared foe this week. Mother Nature never reared her ugly head. She instead sent kindly temperatures and gentle breezes to make us all feel good about the week.

Yes, Indianapolis had a preparedness plan to deal with just about any weather catastrophe. But just because streets are plowed and sidewalks salted doesn’t mean zero-degree temperatures and sub-arctic wind blasts are going to make people love Indianapolis.

And it’s true that Indianapolis has more hotel rooms connected to one another, shopping, restaurants and the convention center by enclosed walkways than any city in America. But being forced into those gerbil tubes sure is enough to make a person think about Miami beaches and Arizona sunshine.

Bad weather has a way of making other bad things happen as well. And any marketer will tell you, one disaster can unravel a decade of positive brand building in a heartbeat.

“I think we burned a lifetime of good karma in a week, and the culmination of that was the game,” said Mark Miles, 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman.

Never have truer words been spoken.

Almost nothing went wrong. We actually were forced to complain about the little things like the Super Bowl Village being too crowded or a scarcity of zip-line tickets. Those are merely signs of the event’s overwhelming success.

There were a few hearty wind gusts early last week that caused some tents to close for a couple hours. Those memories have long been buried deep beneath an avalanche of pleasant happenings in the Circle City.

About the only thing to complain about on game day was shrimp cocktail that cost $30. And that was out of the local host committee's hands.

ISC Chairman Joe DeGroff recently told me successes don’t make you want to slow down and they don’t make expectations dwindle. They make you hungrier. And he added that the ISC’s victories only make people ask for more.

But I wonder, how much more can this city deliver?

I have no doubt that the NFL is going to ask for an encore performance. But not in 10 years, as has been previously suggested. I believe after the local host committee led by Miles and CEO Allison Melangton rocked this town and the entire NFL and its 32 owners, they’ll be asked to host America’s most popular sporting event within the next six years.

Indianapolis isn’t the only one that gets a giant brand boost when the Super Bowl goes off this flawlessly. A noted sports business expert told me after Sunday night’s game that the NFL might now need Indianapolis as much as Indianapolis needs the NFL. After all, there’s no shortage of bigger cities that have failed to do half the job of hosting the NFL’s crown jewel that Indianapolis has.

That is just what we’ve asked for, Indiana University Athletics Director Fred Glass reminded me last week.

“When we built this venue, we hoped to get one Super Bowl,” said Glass, who was instrumental in crafting the deal to build Lucas Oil Stadium and the bid that brought the Super Bowl to Indianapolis. “All we wanted was just one to show the world what we could do and cause people to want us, and invite us to be a regular host.”

Even before the game kicked off Sunday, Glass concluded, “That’s absolutely realistic.”

It seems more realistic than ever now.

But can Indy—and its sports-business-minded leaders—live up to hype?

As they say in sporting circles, that’s why they play the game.


  • I can understand your concern, but you never turn down a chance to host an event like a Superbowl. It will be interesting to see how NY/NJ does hosting a Superbowl, not only in a cold weather city, but in an open air stadium. After that, other northern open air stadiums will quickly be taken off the list. Couple that with the monsoon endured during the Colts win in Miami, the "freak" ice storms that have hit Atlanta and Dallas when they hosted and the crime, dirtiness and poverty of New Orleans, the quaintness of Indy and the all weather stadium designed for the biggest game will be welcomed.

    The NFL learned this week the pent up demand of the northerners who want to attend Superbowl festivities but can't afford to fly thousands of miles to the southern coast to attend. This showed that people can drive a few hours and have a blast on a relatively inexpensive budget.

    Most importantly, never underestimate Indy's ability to raise the bar and do it better every time. We wrote the book on Final Four hosting, and we did it again with the Superbowl.

    So we welcome the Superbowl and any other major event. We will do as we always do and step up and hit it out of the park.
  • Hot Sales Leads
    Following up with attracting key non profit organizations and their events focused upon our Life Science, Manufacturing, Logistics, Agriculture, & Sports industry would be a smart strategy.

    It should be a target rich environment.
  • Hard to Repeat
    I think the success of this Super Bowl in Indy will be hard to repeat for two big reasons. First, we have to admit that we lucked out on the weather. This helped bring the crowds downtown. We were able to handle the logistics of hosting the big crowds downtown in a confined space. I don't know what the plans were in case we got 6 to 8 inches of snow but that's always possible. I am not opposed to hosting the Super Bowl, I'm just trying to be realistic. The other big issue is that I believe a big part of the turnout for the Super Bowl events here was due to the fact that it was the first time. If we have another event too soon it will not have the same novelty as this one did. That said, one of the great things is that the Super Bowl Host Committee no doubt learned things that will make our next event even better. Hello my no
  • On to the next big thing.
    We dodged the winter bullet. No need to tempt fate again. We've established that we do big events better than anyone, now let's move on to big SUMMER events. A Republican national convention, and, dare I even write it, the Olympics.
  • Comments spot on
    I was offered 3 FREE tickets to the game Sunday (thanks, but would rather watch on TV). Tix to the game were going for face value - or less - according to on-site tix brokers (game day tix in Dallas last year were $4,000 apiece). According to that same broker, we were looking at predominantly "local" traffic for Super Bowl week (neither the Giants' or Patriots' fans traditionally travel well and with Super 8 hotel prices at $300/night, we didn't do ourselves any favors in trying to attract them). Bottom line, we spent a lot of money and effort to entertain ourselves and pat ourselves on the back (we spent more to just acquire the game than we do on the arts in a DECADE! And the arts generate $500 million in revenue per year - not what will amount to a net loss when all the numbers are crunched). Bottom line, it's going to take some serious number crunching and re-crunching and prettying up to make another Super Bowl even appear remotely worth it. I think there are better and more worthy things this town needs to be spending its time and money on...and that $200 million we supposedly made? More than 80% of it goes right back out the door to national chains and etc. while the rest of it was just money re-circulated within the community - to go with the nearly one billion it cost us just to get the game and put it on (counting the stadium build). I for one am glad to see it go. For good. Self-congratulation and self aggrandizement be darned!
  • No Politics Please

    Yes, we need new events year round that repeat themselves here regularly.

    Sorry to tell you, but the U.S. lost bids to host the Olympics and World Cup just recently.

    Additionally political conventions are losers with very little upside considering protestors/civil disorder etc...

    Just look at Seattle's WTO meeting or Chicago's Democratic convention.
  • Great event
    I was there. Indy pulled it off like no other. This was my fifth Super Bowl in person. By far, it was the best. EVERYTHING about it was superb. Pat yourself on the back, Circle City.
  • Idiot naysayer
    All of you, including the articel writer really need to watch the WFYI documentary "Naptown to Super City". Nothing is more disgusting than something good happens to our community and many people try to offer their negative spin. There is no negative spin here. This city has come a long way and now to host two of the biggest sporting events is quite an accomplishment. Bring it back again within 5 years. The other things to spend money on that has been offered is garbage. Those "arts" and other community funding will only be more opportunistic as a reult of being a Superbowl host town. Indy is now arguably the sport capital of the world. Embrace that and all the ancillary benefits that come from that! You people that have commented negatively are perpetual pessimists and need to really look at the perspective and from where this town has come in the past 20 years!
  • Moderation
    I'm not sure that Indy needs to be or will have the chance to host the Super Bowl every five or six years like the Final Four. However, I think there are definitely gains from hosting a Super Bowl every ten or so years. Let me ask you this. How many of you think of the Super Bowl when I mention Minneapolis? They hosted one roughly twenty years ago and that's largely forgotten. Just as Indy will be in 2032 if we don't host another one. There are many reasons to continue to host one now and then. With the NFL rewarding most teams these days for building new stadiums and always wanting to have the New Orleans, Miami, Arizona, etc. locations I think about once every eight to tweleve years is realistic and would work well from an Indy civic standpoint.

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  1. Uh, sorry Johnnie, but you are incorrect. Despite the assertions by yourself and various defenders and captains, sports attendance is NOT off significantly at most sporting events in the US. Variances in attendance has been in the range of single digits, both + & - for years now. MLB has had most of its best overall attendance nubers in the last decade, and that trend has been consistent for most major sporting events. The number one issue cited by most fans when asked about attendance is the overall cost of attending. The presence of HD and big screen televisions in home doesn't even register, as a factor for not attending an event. VALUE in the product is the key, and apparently is something lacking in the current ICS. What other explanation is there when with what is routinely touted as the "best" racing on the planet, fans are staying away in DROVES. A "close" title battle into the last event at Fontana, with the "cars and stars" of the ICS, and who showed up? MAYBE 8K. Sorry, but HD TV isn't to blame for that kind of fan apathy.

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