Indianapolis isn’t lacking for post-Super Bowl commentary but I am in a unique position – small business owner, employee of another small business, privvy to some of the details of SB46 planning and able to view everything through the lens of a reporter – so I have decided to weigh in. Rather than stitch all of my thoughts together in a Frankentein’s monster of an essay, I decided to dedicate a post to each thought.
The question of whether hosting Super Bowl XLVI was “worth it” was being posed days, weeks, even months before the event took place. It’s a valid question but the underlying assumptions rarely are. That’s because when many people pose the question of whether or not hosting the Super Bowl was “worth it” they actually mean, “did having the Super Bowl in Indianapolis profitable for me / the city this week?” The hard truth is that even if it wasn’t, having the event in Indianapolis was still well worth the time, money, and effort expended to carry it off. That’s because the true return on investment can’t be measured now or maybe even for months or years to come.
Hosting the Super Bowl is equivalent to a $100 million-plus ad buy. Our city was featured on television screens, newspaper pages, and radio frequencies worldwide and thanks to many of our guests, was the recipient of quite a bit of online buzz. Indianapolis could never purchase advertising, editorial coverage, and goodwill on the scale that we enjoyed for the last few weeks and will continue to enjoy as long as people remember Super Bowl XLVI. That value cannot be understated.
Consider for a minute how you feel about places like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Mexico City, Bangkok, and Cairo. Chances are that you have traveled a bit but you haven’t been to all of those cities. But I’ll bet that you know something about them, you have a general sense of what they are like, a feeling about the character of the place. But how could you possibly know what New York is like without walking the streets of Manhattan or Williamsburg or Flushing? You know what you know in large part because of the story that the city tells about itself and that media companies tell on its behalf.
Super Bowl XLVI was Indianapolis’ chance to tell our story to an international audience. While Indianapolis is unlikely to become a global city like New York, Chicago, or LA, it still needs to have an international brand. We are starting to build one now because of the Super Bowl. I guarantee you that I will never again have to explain to someone on a plane that I don’t live in Minnesota.
It sounds silly and it’s hard to measure, but you cannot underestimate the emotional and psychological power of having an international identity. Why would anyone want to come to a place they’ve never heard of, and why would anyone want to stay in a place that’s flown over and ignored? Historically they don’t and they won’t. That tide has started to turn and will likely reap benefits that we still can’t predict.
Marketing is part magic and we cast a spell on a lot of people last week. Just because it will take time and a lot more work to make that pay off doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.