The snow and ice have fallen; the last fans have left Secaucus Junction; the security perimeter is down and the toboggan is gone from Times Square. So when the dust, or ice, settles, who really won the Super Bowl, other than the Seahawks, the broadcasters and those who were able to cash in on the extravaganza?
One answer for the long term is hopefully the youth of the tri-state area, who received the legacy gifts from the largest charitable endeavor ever involved with the Super Bowl, The Snowflake Youth Foundation. The impressive endeavor raised more than $11 Million that is going to 50 projects to help not just football-playing youth, but young people of all backgrounds, from Newark and Belmar to Paterson and Rahway.
When it was launched in April 2012 by the Super Bowl Host Committee, the goal was pretty simple, but one that raised some eyebrows among skeptics; raise money for local community projects that will leave a significant and lasting legacy in the region, long after the game ends, so that the tail from the game actually has true impact for those who never ventured anywhere near Met Life Stadium.
The effort was driven by the key members of the Host Committee…the Mara and Tisch families and Jets owner Woody Johnson…as well as by large donations big and small. The result probably didn’t get as much glitz as the game or the brands who spent millions to activate programs during Super Bowl week. However what it did was serve as a reminder to potentially millions of young people for years to come that the game made an impact on their lives through field refurbishments, gym and playground rebuilds, youth center reconstruction, and education programs. Those are aspects of the game that will live on long after the Host Committee turns off the lines and files its last report in the coming months, and it sets a very high bar for what future mega-events can do to give back, not just in the New York area but across the country.
The idea of legacy programs with elite athletes and celebrities, as well as events, is still growing and is one that brands are looking more closely at as well. While giving a large check or doing a splashy gala gets buzz for the short term, the ROI can be fleeting. Foundations that can create a lasting gift, especially one that has a tangible return for people in need, are being viewed as more and more effective, and the implementation of social media as a driver to continue to tell the story also adds to the impact of such programs. Now sometimes it is hard to quantify the results for a board or a group looking for a quick return. However a revisit on a program in 2-3 years or even five years, to show how such projects like what the Snowflake Youth Foundation has created is one way to show continuous ROI. Those type of results will be worth watching as the seed money the Foundation put into the community bears fruit.
In the end there will be lots of questions as to whether the cold weather Super Bowl was worth the effort. The immediate words from the Host Committee was that this was not just a one shot deal; that they would look to bring a future Super Bowl back here to New Jersey. Whether that happens or not is still to be determined by economic impact studies and other reports that show the cost and the benefit to the millions of people touched by the game. However what is clear is that a not-for-profit foundation found a way through all the hype and the clutter to raise big dollars and do what these events should do more of; positively impact the lives of millions who never made it anywhere near the Meadowlands for years to come… a legacy that will mean more to people in the area than whomever won last Sunday’s game.