I had the pleasure to interview Frank Supovitz. Here are his answers to my 3 questions.
How did you organise the most watched Super Bowl ever?
Super Bowl XLVIII was perhaps the most logistically complex and challenging the NFL had ever mounted. Until then, every Super Bowl was played outdoors in a warm winter market or in an indoor stadium when it visited a northern location. This was the first to be played outdoors in a cold winter market, and was therefore subject to the possibility of snow, ice and deep cold. During the month of preparation ahead of the game, temperatures were consistently well below freezing and at least four snowstorms hit the region. As a consequence, we had contingency plan upon contingency plan for construction delays and even rescheduling the contest if the game day weather conditions proved dangerous. Super Bowl is a massive undertaking, so any rescheduling plan would have had profound impacts on broadcasting, regional transit, staffing, public safety plans, and accommodation logistics. So, every element had to be thought through and developed or communicated to every stakeholder, participant, and fan.
Super Bowl XLVIII was also the first to be played in the New York/New Jersey region, a very large and cluttered entertainment environment. So, we had to come up with fan activities that would capture the attention of fans and the media in innovative, exciting and memorable ways. Rather than host our traditional fan festival (NFL Experience) in a convention center, we decided to embrace the cold. Working with the City of New York, we presented Super Bowl Boulevard, a half-mile long outdoor fan event that closed Broadway from 34th Street to 48th Street, including the heart of Times Square. The attractions included many fan participatory football activities and an 8-lane, 90-foot high toboggan ride designed to look like a snow-covered football field. More than 28,000 people took the ride and 1.5 million visited Super Bowl Boulevard over four days. What was remarkable about that attendance figure is not just how incredibly cold it was that week, but also the fact that the police reported no incidents of disorderly conduct. Fans were just there to have a great time.
Our sponsors enjoyed Super Bowl from NFL House, a drop-in corporate hospitality center open and offering food & beverage all week long in the 8th floor lounge of the Marriott Marquis Times Square, overlooking Super Bowl Boulevard. Here, the sponsors could see vividly how popular was the event they were sponsoring below. In fact, most event venues were located within a few blocks of Super Bowl Boulevard so we could build a center of gravity in a very large and dispersed market. Instead of trying to be everywhere and spreading our budgets too thin, we concentrated events in a more defined, very accessible and identifiable campus and attracted people to that one nucleus of activity. As you can see from the attendance figure, it worked in spite of the cold.
Your company will provide live and television event consulting, development and management services. Could you expand on that?
After 23 years of running the events business for two North American sports leagues, the last 10 of which for the National Football League, I decided to do more of what I love to do for more and different organizations. To me, creating and managing major events is a bit like urban planning and a lot like putting together a giant puzzle. The match is the most central and important part of anything we can do, but involving fans, partners, broadcasters and guests in a more meaningful, bigger and more accessible celebration can make the event so much better and more successful. Developing compelling and innovative content, and understanding how to stage it in new and innovative ways is what has always driven my interest in sports and entertainment events, and I felt I could offer that passion to a wider marketplace by launching my own practice.
Fast Traffic Events & Entertainment was inspired that those objectives. In addition to continuing to offer consulting services to the NFL, I am currently working with Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the development of their plans for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 race and with the National Rugby League in Australia on how to better manage and develop their vast portfolio of events throughout the year. I am also working with a terrific non-sports client, Howard Hughes Corporation, the company responsible for the re-development of South Street Seaport in New York City. The Seaport, previously devastated by Hurricane Sandy, is rolling out a series of newly refurbished and rebuilt destination retail facilities, which will also include a rooftop concert and event space atop Pier 17, just four blocks south of the Brooklyn Bridge. The views will be stunning and I am working with their designers, architects, and management team to develop the event and entertainment strategies for the district.
What’s one tip you would give on Event and entertainment strategies?
There are two ways to build events. One is to do something innovative and compelling and try to draw people to it. The other is to “fish where the fish are,” or staging events in high traffic areas your target market frequents. I think the sweet spot is when you can do both of those things simultaneously. Your most passionate fans will go to wherever you stage an event. But, being able to win new fans is often a key objective. So, I try to do things where casual and non-fans will also be. Excitement is contagious, and you can draw new people into the celebration who would have otherwise been just “passing through.” It’s a great way to have new audiences sample what your biggest fans already enjoy.
To get in touch with Frank, go to http://www.fasttrafficevents.com/