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Super Bowl event focus | 3. Bay of bigwigs

Super Bowl 50 is not just a special event for rights-holder the NFL and broadcaster CBS – it’s also being taken very seriously by event host the San Francisco Bay Area.

At the time of writing, tickets on StubHub were priced at between $4,000 and $25,000, depending on the proximity to the pitch. According to a StubHub spokesperson, the average price of tickets sold so far is $5,189. This compares to an average price last year of $2,934. One possible factor explaining this is the Silicon Valley effect, with plenty of wealthy tech entrepreneurs able to buy tickets.

Although Super Bowl itself can only accommodate around 70,000 fans, the Bay Area is expecting 300,000 visitors in the run up to the game. Many will head for San Francisco, which is hosting a week of activities in partnership with the NFL and a number of commercial partners. This will include a free-to-the-public fan experience called Super Bowl City and an interactive theme park called The NFL Experience (which is ticketed).

Festivities will kick off on February 1 at the SAP Centre in San Jose with an event called Super Bowl Opening Night Fueled By Gatorade. This is an evolution of the traditional Super Bowl Media Day, which will see fans paying $30 for the opportunity to see players and coaches interviewed by media from around the world. There’ll also be gift bags, music and cheerleaders.

The San Francisco Bay Area Host Committee hasn’t released an estimate of how much the event is worth to the area, but last year’s Super Bowl is reckoned to have generated between $130m and $500m for host city Phoenix (depending on what you choose to include and which costs you strip out). Hotels are expected to do well by charging inflated ‘Super Bowl’ rates but a lot of other Bay Area tourist-related businesses already do pretty well at this time of year so may not see much uplift.

The Ethical Approach One element that the Bay Area is working hard at is sustainability. The head of the Host Committee’s sustainability effort is former Octagon executive Neill Duffy who said the Bay Area wants to set a benchmark for future events to measure themselves against: “Sustainability is something that the Bay Area population cares a lot about. It’s in their NDA,” Duffy said. “That’s why it was one of the pillars of the Super Bowl bid.”

Duffy said the Bay Area’s sustainability drive is focusing on four areas. “We want this to be a low emissions event, which means looking at our approach to transportation and power. We also want it to demonstrate a responsible use of resources, so that’s about food, water and waste. In addition, we want sustainability to be something that fans embrace – and we intend there to be a sustainability legacy after the event.”

According to Duffy, a range of initiatives mean the Bay Area is on track to hit its targets. “We’ve had a lot of support from local agencies and brands. Many of our corporate partners are keen to activate their strategies against sustainability goals.”

Duffy said the beauty of the Bay Area’s sustainability strategy is that “it’s not just good for the environment, it’s good for business. We’ve seen new sponsors come on board and we’ve encouraged people to think about efficient use of resources. It’s also helping the sport engage with the millennial audience.”

His ambition is that others will pick up the baton after Super Bowl 50 is over: “We really want this event to act as a blueprint for other event organisers, within the NFL and beyond. Our learnings will be available to everyone and we plan to hold a conference about what we did for anyone who is interested.”

Architects of Success

As for the Super Bowl venue itself, the $1.2bn Levi’s Stadium was awarded the game in 2013 but didn’t open until 2014. It’s the first time a stadium in California has hosted the Super Bowl since 1985. The new home of the San Francisco 49ers, it beat off competition from New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Florida’s Sun Life Stadium to secure the fixture.

Levi’s is one of the most technologically advanced venues in the world. The stadium’s digital infrastructure is sufficiently robust that all 70,000 Super Bowl fans will be able to connect to Wifi and 4G.

This is a real asset in a sport that has so many breaks during live play. There is also a stadium app that can guide people to the car park entrance closest to their seats, and to their seats. Using the same app, fans can also watch four replays at a time during the game as well as checking stats.

In addition, they can order food and drink and have it delivered directly to their seats. Or they can order food from their seats and collect it via fast track lanes at the concession stands.

Digital Dividends

Perhaps not surprisingly given its location at the heart of Silicon Valley, the Levi’s Stadium is attractive for technology brands wanting to showcase the capability of their kit to business partners. Sony technology, for example, is at the centre of the stadium’s control room, which manages all of the video for the over 2,000 Sony TVs that have been placed around the venue, as well as the two giant LED displays located in each end zone.

In terms of sustainability, the stadium was the first American professional football stadium to open with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification.

Sustainable touches include a solar energy set up that can generate enough energy in one year to power the stadium for all 49ers home games. The stadium is also easily accessible via public transportation and was built with recycled and reclaimed materials where possible. It uses reclaimed water and encourages concessionaires to work with local suppliers.



Earlier this year, Canadian newspaper the Toronto Sun made the proud boast that Canadians ‘love’ the Super Bowl more than Americans. It backed up this claim by pointing to television ratings, which showed that 55% of all Canadians (19.3 million) watched the Super Bowl on CTV compared to the 51% of Americans who were tuned in to NBC’s coverage of the game.

Nowhere else in the world shows quite this level of enthusiasm for Super Bowl but there is no question that it has strong pockets of support around the world. A case in point is Germany, where leading broadcast group ProSiebenSat1 recently renewed and extended its partnership with the NFL. As part of the deal it will air seven live games on flagship channel Sat1 including the Super Bowl, which it has aired since 2011.

A challenge for the Super Bowl in Europe is that the game airs late at night (postmidnight). Nevertheless, Sat1 still manages to attract in excess of one million viewers, which at that time of night translates into more than a 30-per-cent audience share.

The game has a similar profile in the UK, where research group Repucom reckons the NFL is now the seventh most popular sport. Keen to take advantage of the sport’s growing popularity, the BBC has just poached the rights to the Super Bowl from Channel 4, which last year attracted a peak audience of 1.2 million for its live coverage. Under a two-year deal, the BBC will show the game live and is running a Road To The Super Bowl series leading up to the event.

Last season’s Super Bowl aired across 180 countries in 25 languages. Outside Germany and the UK, strong markets include Mexico and Australia (where the event is watched by around 200,000) while Repucom cites Russia and China as key growth markets: “Since 2013, interest in the NFL amongst the Chinese population has jumped from 1.7 to 7.9 per cent. This is the equivalent of an extra 31 million people saying they are now NFL fans. Of the markets tested, in terms of the proportion of the population that say they are interested in the NFL, Russia tops the list of countries outside North America. Today, 13.3 per cent, or just over 10 million Russians, are said to be fans of the NFL.”


Read the other articles in the Super Bowl event focus:

1. The super show

2. Brand bonanza



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