When it comes Super Bowl participants, the best matchup for marketers doesn't necessarily involve X's and O's, but rather dollars and cents.
And that means rooting for the New York Giants to beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in one of two conference championship games — the New England Patriots play the Baltimore Ravens in the other game — in order to have a team from the No. 1 TV market in the big game on Feb. 5. (The San Francisco area is the No. 6 TV market in the U.S.)
"It's all about bang for the bucks, and with those kinds of bucks on the line I'd be surprised if (marketers) are not sending their own personally designed pass-rush plays to the Giants and Patriots," said Drew Kerr, president of the New York-based marketing firm Four Corners Communications.
"When you start looking at added value, to have a big-market team in the mix is great for any marketer and for the hospitality folks," said Barb Rechterman, exec VP and chief marketing officer of GoDaddy.com, which perennially pushes the envelope with its Super Bowl commercials.
Ms. Rechterman added "Go Giants!" now that her favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have been bounced out of the playoffs.
A small sampling of marketers and sports-marketing experts noted that the best of the four possible matchups to come out of the conference championship games this weekend would be the New York Giants vs. New England Patriots. The Giants vs. the Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots vs. the San Francisco 49ers, and San Francisco vs. Baltimore remain a distant second. (See the pros and cons of the match-ups below.)
So, does that mean marketers who are spending up to $3.5 million for a 30-second spot root for the matchup that best serves their needs for return on investment? You bet.
"Yes, I do think marketers root for the most compelling matchup between the teams with the most avid fan bases and ideally the two best television markets," said Kevin Adler, president of Chicago-based sports marketing group Engage Marketing. "Any time a major market team like New York is in the mix it's a huge win for marketers. At the end of the day, for marketers, the Super Bowl is about affinity and eyeballs."
"Look, the Super Bowl is always going to draw big ratings no matter who's in it," said GoDaddy's Ms. Rechterman. "I think what any marketer ultimately wants is a good game, an exciting game, a close game where the viewers stay with it."
To Ms. Rechterman's point, she is correct about the ratings. Last year's game between the small-market Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers drew a record 111 million viewers. The Super Bowl is transcendent; it is celebrated like Christmas, and nobody forgets about Christmas.
But there's still something to be said for being there, and marketers on-site certainly hope for well-heeled fans — say, from, New York — to come into town and spend money.
Among those pulling for the Giants is Ryan Cheuvront, director of sales for Chicago-based VIP Sports Marketing, which books corporate outings. "When it gets down to these four ... the Giants will definitely be the biggest (draw) out of that," he said, noting that he has several New York clients ready to pull the trigger on travel and ticket packages.
San Francisco would be decent for business, although it might be hard to convince clients to make the trip from California to Indy, which is not as appealing "as going to New Orleans or Miami or something," he said. In the AFC, Mr. Cheuvront is rooting for the Patriots over smaller market Baltimore, which he called the "worst-case scenario" from a business perspective. (Mr. Cheuvront, we should note, is a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, so rooting against the Ravens comes naturally.)
Because of a scarcity of upscale hotel rooms in Indianapolis, VIP is putting up some clients in Chicago at the Trump International Hotel & Tower. Packages ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 a person include a same-day charter flight to the game, pregame party and tickets.
Pros and cons of each potential Super Bowl matchup
New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
Pros: Big-market New York team; heavy fan base that travels for both teams; top-notch endorsers playing at quarterback (Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady); both teams going for fourth Super Bowl title; rematch of 2008 Super Bowl in which Giants upset New England and prevented the Patriots from completing an undefeated season
New England Patriots vs. San Francisco 49ers
Pros: Tom Brady going for fourth Super Bowl title; heavy New England fan base that travels well; possible high-tech company bigwigs from San Francisco
Cons: No "name" players/endorsers from 49ers; distance from San Francisco to Indianapolis could prohibit more San Francisco fans from attending
Verdict: Field goal
San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Pros: First-ever brother vs. brother head-coaching matchup in Super Bowl history, between San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore's John Harbaugh
Cons: Two run-centric teams make for potentially un-sexy game; small markets; virtual unknowns in the marketing world at the premier positions on both teams
Verdict: Field goal
New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens
Pros: Big-market New York team; Giants quarterback Eli Manning; rematch of 2001 Super Bowl won by Ravens, 35-7.
Cons: More potential for less exciting, defense-oriented game; no "name" players/endorsers from Baltimore other than aging linebacker Ray Lewis
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