We can never get enough of good leadership stories, especially when they revolve around the biggest of challenges. One of the most unwieldy and complex of those challenges in the event space is the Super Bowl. Hundreds of groups, thousands of volunteers, multiple municipalities all have to be moving in lock step for the game and its hundreds of events to come off with as few hitches as possible. Super Bowl 50 was certainly one of those major challenges, and one of the major successes, as the Bay Area rallied to pull off the massive event
Helping lead that group was Pat Gallagher EVP Marketing, Partnerships and Communications for The Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, and he documents those keys to success melded with a lifetime spent in and around sports business in a new book, Bigger Game Bigger Impact.
We caught up with Pat this week to glean some of the key facts as the book hits the shelves this week.
What surprised you most from a professional business strategy about the Super Bowl experience?
In some ways our lack of recent local experience became a strength in preparing a bid and building an organization capable of delivering a Super Bowl. There was no act to follow or past organizing committee in place, so we had a clean slate. Aside from some anecdotal advice from past host committees and the NFL’s RFP, we were on our own to develop our own strategy.
Was the 50th anniversary a hindrance in any way for the initiatives you wanted to put forth with your team?
To be able to compete for the 50th anniversary Super Bowl became a rallying point for our small bid committee. To bring the milestone golden anniversary game back to the golden state where it all began generated the enthusiasm we needed to gather local support and do our best to impress the NFL. Celebrating the first 50 years, but more importantly, setting the stage for the next 50 was a key element in our pitch that seemed to resonate.
What’s the one thing, if you could do over again, that you would?
I’m sure there is something, but I honestly can’t remember it now. As it turned out, there was great value in not knowing any better.
You have a great background in baseball; of all you did with the Giants, what was the biggest thing that transferred over to the Super Bowl work?
Finding compelling ways to tell the story and capture the imagination of what success would look like for the Bay Area and the NFL. In many ways it was similar to creating the vision that made AT&T Park finally happen. Tapping into the passion and power of imagination for doing something profound that would lift up our entire region
Are there 2-3 things that you took away that you pass on to those doing this for the first time in future cities?
Determine why it matters for your region and decide how best to create your own local identity. Go to school on what others have done and what the NFL needs, but make it your own version, which will resonate with your stakeholders. Leave something purposeful behind so there is more to remember than just cleaning up after it.
The event was spread pretty wide form the city to Santa Clara, how difficult was it to manage all those chefs in the kitchen from a business standpoint?
One of our prime objectives from the beginning was to create opportunities for every community to somehow be a part of it and celebrate it in their own way. Our three objectives: be the most giving, shared and participatory Super Bowl ever. This required multiple “centers of gravity” and regional effort to deliver locally produced celebrations.
While little compares to the Super Bowl, were you able to glean anything away from any other events like The Final Four, the Olympics, that made this event even more special?
Assemble an organization capable of delivering on the core objectives while sweating the details. We developed an organization that aspired to do heroic work collectively without worrying about who got the credit.
There were many heroes obviously, who was the most unsung in your opinion, in the whole process?
Hard question, but I would say the people behind the scenes who made it safe and secure for everyone and coordinated all of the security, transportation and event logistics. You don’t hear about them unless something goes wrong and thankfully nothing did.
There were thousands of volunteers involved; for those new to the business how valuable is the volunteer experience in terms of getting ones foot in the door?
Our over 5500 volunteers became the face and the heart of the host committee for visitors and locals alike. They had to be recruited, screened, trained, uniformed and deployed. We gave them permission to welcome and serve our guests as if they were doing so in their own homes. Serving as a Super Bowl 50 Host Committee Volunteer created a once in a lifetime experience and lasting friendships, we kept hearing over and over from them
From a pure business learning standpoint, what advice do you give brands who are new to the process that can make their “big event” strategy a success?
Don’t make the mistake of buying the rights and not being prepared to create fresh and exciting activations or think you can get by just re-purposing old concepts. Don’t become involved unless you are willing to spend enough to make a great impression. Be bold and use showmanship to deliver your message.