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February 3, 2012
The Super Bowl, Up Close and Personal
 
I'm a football fan, but the closest I've ever been to a Super Bowl was in the early ‘90s when my beloved Buffalo Bills made it to the big game four times in a row. You'd think that the Bills should have won at least one of them, but no.
 
I've been through the incredible highs of watching the team play in those championship games (On TV of course. Ticket prices were always out of reach) then suffering the incredible lows of being on the losing end. Ice that cake with "February in Buffalo" snow and you've got one bad post-game-traumatic-stress disorder. Like it or not, the Bills' failures on that big stage resulted in bad advertising for the city of Buffalo. The municipality has not overcome much of that negative PR. And that's what a team's playing in, or a city's hosting a Super Bowl, essentially is. Advertising.
 
Now that I reside in Indianapolis, where Super Bowl XLVI — or forty-six for us Roman numerally-challenged — will be held, I've been following the preparations closely. I never imagined the kind of work that is involved in staging an event this big: the world's biggest one-day sporting event. The city went all out to insure that the publicity and advertising capital that can be gained by hosting the Super Bowl will generate nothing but good things. It's one giant advertising campaign for Indianapolis. The city will have a world-wide audience of over 11 million people, numerous mentions before and after commercials, sky-views from a blimp, beauty shots during breaks in the action, plus many plugs from the shows that will be televised from the city days before the game. Indy is hoping to polish up that image to a world-class shine. No more "Nap-town" or "Indiana-No-Place" nicknames. The residual effect could be even greater. The majority of big-game attendees are business decision-makers who have the potential to add to the city's economy for years to come. They may have never considered Indianapolis as a place to conduct business but they will now. The Colts didn't get anywhere near the payoffs this year, so no matter which team wins and loses, it won't hurt Indianapolis' image one bit.
 
Yes, there is a football game being played here in Indianapolis on Sunday, but you'd almost miss it what with all the ancillary events going on leading up to the contest. The game is officially one hour long, but the promotions and hype started weeks, even months ago. The planning was years in the making and the seeds were sown decades ago when the city built a football stadium downtown. Before actually having a team. (Try getting away with that these days!) The Indy Star newspaper has been devoting at least a third of its daily coverage to the preparations. Is anything else going on in the world? Not as far as Hoosiers are concerned. This is a big deal here in the heartland, folks!
 
Here's a sample of what's gone into Indianapolis' "ad campaign":
  • Upwards of $25 million was supposedly pledged from private donors. State and city money has gone into building and renovating facilities for event use. How much, we won’t know until the books are closed, but these are permanent improvements to downtown and nearby public buildings.
  • Speaking of downtown, the stadium — Lucas Oil Stadium — is right there. Within minutes of walking are all the special events. From the Indiana Pacers basketball venue, down Georgia Street, which was converted into a pedestrian mall replete with overhead infrared heaters and music stages, to the convention center and then a jaunt to the stadium. Hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs are all within downtown proper and most of the streets have been closed to traffic. There's even a zip-line that runs down one of the main streets.
  • Speaking of restaurants, all the downtown bistros expect huge windfalls in customers. Most set up heated dining tents in parking lots and hired hundreds of extra servers, cooks, and bartenders. Suppliers have set up food and beverage runs to the restaurants on a round-the-clock basis.
  • Approximately 150,000 tourists are expected to be in town with many flying in on commercial and private aircraft. The Indianapolis Airport and all the smaller regional airports are ready, with everything from upgraded flight crew amenities to extra fuel trucks. A huge snow-fighting truck is standing by that cuts a 24-foot swath. The FAA brought in three temporary control towers. Limousines have been brought in from out of state to augment the Indianapolis livery. Park and ride lots were set up with continuous shuttles to the stadium and nearby venues.
  • Security is a high priority. The city wants guests to enjoy themselves and be safe. Police will be everywhere on the streets and hundreds of volunteers with tablet computers will provide directions or help anyone who needs it. To the city's credit, the powers that be decided not to try and hide those people that call the streets their home — former Colts coaches.
The economic impact is debatable depending on whom you talk to. The average citizens say "lots of money" and the local politicians merely rub their hands together while smiling. From the official crystal-Ball State University viewpoint via a study the BSU Bureau of Business Research did in March of 2008, Indianapolis can expect a "significant, one time increase of $365 million in total economic activity… State and local tax revenues would top $32 million."
 
It's an expensive "advertising campaign." At the standard figure of 10% of sales, that's a $32.5 million account but in my opinion, it's money well spent to bring Indianapolis up to the same level of this country's —  if not the world’s — great cities. The people and government of Indianapolis and Indiana worked hard to get here and they deserve it. Now if only the Buffalo Bills were playing in the game this year…

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Steve James owned and creative directed an advertising and design studio in Buffalo, NY with the un-snappy name of SteveJamesDesign, Inc. Steve and his family now live in Indianapolis where he worked as a Creative Director and he is currently in transition, flux, metamorphosis, segue, or whatever looking for work is now called.

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