Next Stop: The Frozen Apple

Late during the bye week officials from New York and New Jersey joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to give an update on the plans that will immediately surround the 2014 Super Bowl,  to be held at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, the first time the sports and entertainment spectacle will not be held in a warm weather environment.

Among the events discussed were the usual  fan festival (at a site still TBD), a 2014 Super Bowl Boulevard down Broadway from West 34th Street to West 44th Street for the week before the game, a televised NFL Honors awards show,  media day…a ticketed event for almost 15,000 people, at Newark’s Prudential Center and a tailgating and pregame tailgating event at the  Meadowlands Racetrack, which will host the NFL’s pre-game tailgate party.

All those events will be new to the New York area for sure, but not really new to any brand or marketer who is used to being in the mix for Super Bowl. More spread out, and with lots of plans for inclement weather? Sure. But certainly not new. So if you are a brand why or how can Super Bowl 2014 be a differentiator for you in the biggest media market in the world?

One way is capitalizing on the location, regardless of weather. The US Open in tennis has an amazing appeal to brands not because of its great athleticism and state of the art facilities, but because it is the one and only global sports event that takes place just a few miles from Madison Avenue each and every year in the same time period. Brands can build hospitality and marketing programs that lead toward the end of the summer every year, and not have to worry if the “home team” is in the mix. In many ways the same goes for the Knicks and the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.   No matter whether the teams win or lose, the buzz of the Garden is always palpable, and it makes for a tremendous entertainment platform, with fix dates, only minutes from hundreds of brand decision makers who call New York home, either full or part-time. And if a brand is not using New York as its home base, rest assured its media company is. The old axiom for business success still holds true today… “location, location, location,” and for the 2014 Super Bowl, the location is New York, the media capital of the world.

So while the game may still be far off in the immediate consciousness of the fan, it should be front and center with brands looking to innovate, entertain and take advantage of a rare time where the sports and entertainment world will focus on a sports event in New York with a long lead time. How does one do that? Start today.

Brands who can get out in front with innovative programs…philanthropic events like playground builds and restoration events for victims of Hurricane Sandy, volunteer rewards programs for all the workers that will be needed around all the events,  legacy school programs that can enhance learning, consumer activation programs that can give fans special access to a series of events leading toward the game, can give those looking to get a much needed edge simply  because the frequency of connecting will be there now, not next January when the fight for those same eyeballs will be immense from long-time partners who roll in annually regardless of where the game is held.

Tickets to the actual game will be scarce for local residents, but the equity that can be built into fans being part of the “experience” is going to be very high. The Super Bowl host Committee needs to continue to find ways to cut through the clutter and make that “experience” top of mind, not just the week of the game, but in all 52 weeks leading up. They need to incent fans to buy tickets to all the ancillary events well in advance, to purchase merchandise and most importantly to patronize the brands that are heavily invested as both NFL partners and as stakeholders in the event itself.

It is very rare to have such a mega-event in the largest media market in the world at a time of year where there is precious little competition. The baseball All-Star Game comes to New York in July at CitiField, and that will have lots of trappings and engagement, but nothing on par globally like a Super Bowl.

If you are a brand looking to take advantage, the kickoff should really be now. By the time you get to the fourth quarter (of 2013) you may not have a chance to win the consumer engagement game. The investment while consumers are still thinking Super Bowl…in the next few weeks…can provide a great roadmap to success as the game comes to New York next February.