Hosting another Super Bowl could deliver diminished return

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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.


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