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I’m admittedly not a football fan. But somehow every year I find myself celebrating the Super Bowl as if it’s a national holiday. Coming up on this year’s game, I started contemplating the Super Bowl’s power as a hybrid event.
What is it about this one game that makes it so attractive, even to people who don’t really care about the subject matter? The Super Bowl is America’s biggest sporting event. In fact, this year it’s estimated that 70,000 people attended live, and 36 million households watched remotely.
People like me, who don’t watch football regularly, also tuned in for much longer than just the kickoff or halftime show. Could the Super Bowl be a good case study for hybrid events as a whole?
I say yes. Let’s explore how you can take lessons from the Super Bowl to level up your own hybrid events.
If you’re not familiar with the Super Bowl, let’s start there. This game marks the end of every National Football League season every February. Two teams play for the championship title while the country watches on. Supplementing the game is a ton of entertainment. This includes a halftime show – a concert featuring a famous performer or band – and brand new commercials made exclusively to air for the first time during the Super Bowl.
Other activities include tailgates for those attending the game in person, Super Bowl parties for those attending from home, and betting on everything from the winning team to what color of Gatorade will be spilled on the head coach at the end of the game.
With all of these activities in place, it’s no wonder even the least interested person would find some fun in the sporting event. Clearly there are some key takeaways we as event professionals can get out of it.
Every year features a story of ‘the champion’ vs. ‘the underdog’. This storyline is built not only between teams, but individual players. For example, this year the Cincinnati Bengals were the underdog (so I’ve been told). They hadn’t had a shot at the Super Bowl since 1989. However, the Los Angeles Rams were playing the Super Bowl game in their home stadium, a rare occurrence.
Both of these storylines hooked people in and helped build excitement about who would prevail. Likewise, you start finding lots of stories about star players and their ‘journey’ to the Super Bowl. If you don’t care about a specific team, maybe the more personal stories will get you hooked.
Takeaway: Brainstorm as many angles as you can to emotionally compel your audience to join. For example, mine some of your most successful customer stories. Talk about their ‘journey’ to being a better business based on the subject matter you’re covering at your event. It’ll contextualize what people should get out of your event, and get them hooked!
Of course fans will be paying a large sum for tickets to the live game. However, there’s a lot of opportunity to bring money in beyond that. Companies pay big money to place their logo in the Super Bowl. In fact, one report notes that the average cost of a 30-second commercial this year is $6.5 million dollars.
In addition to commercial space, companies pay to have their logo prominent in the stadium, on the players’ equipment, they can even sponsor play breaks during the live broadcast. Speaking of streaming; media companies are paying the NFL for streaming rights to the game. All of these monetary avenues are justified to companies when they realize just how many people are going to be watching live and remotely.
Takeaways: Firstly, showcasing the value your event offers a potential sponsor is crucial. While you may not have 36 million households tuning in, you do have a highly targeted audience who is interested in something your sponsors are likely trying to sell. Share your expected attendance numbers and demographics with sponsors. Also, get creative with how you can build sponsorship packages. Hybrid events offer tons of opportunity between the live and virtual events!
Want to learn more? Check out our Playbook: Attracting Exhibitors to Your Virtual Event
Let’s be honest: the Super Bowl is an excuse to party. If you’re going to the live game, you’re probably tailgating, BBQing and playing games in the parking lot beforehand. If you’re staying home, you’re making wings and nachos, and probably spending the afternoon with your friends or family. The entire day is centered around being with other people and enjoying a sport.
Takeaway: Your event shouldn’t be just about one line item, it needs to be an immersive experience. No matter how serious your event subject matter is, you need to make sure it’s fun for both your in person and remote attendees. Work in aspects that let your audience unwind, relax and have fun. Ensure that anything that feels very information-heavy is balanced out with some more lighthearted sections to break things up.
Sports have always done a great job of keeping both in person and remote audiences interested, perhaps just by the nature of them. Of course it’s easy to get swept up in the energy of the crowd at a live event.
One key component across all sports is the fact that they have commentators describing the plays to the remote audience. It’s more exciting for fans when a commentator gets excited, and between plays they do a great job of explaining the importance of what just happened. This all adds to a feeling of connectedness for the remote audience.
Takeaway: While in-person energy is contagious, it still needs to be fostered in an online environment. Make sure to get both your in-person and online audiences excited. Plus, be sure to posit an emcee or mediator into your event who guides remote audiences through while also making it feel like they’re experiencing it together.
As mentioned, the Super Bowl is not just about football. More people tune into this than any other football game because there’s entertainment through the halftime show and larger-than-life commercials.
In fact, companies create commercials specifically to premier during the Super Bowl. Also, the halftime show has featured huge names, including this year’s performers – Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar.
Takeaway: There are always things you can include in your event to make it appealing to your audience throughout. Working in fun entertainment breaks and exclusive sneak peeks or premiers will help increase your audiences’ excitement about the event.
Of course, sports are gamification in the purest sense. However, there are people who further gamify the Super Bowl and surrounding events. Sports betting is a very lucrative business, especially on Super Bowl day.
Beyond just betting the over/under, bookies for the Super Bowl manage bets for everything from which play will win the game to which song the halftime performer will start with to which color of Gatorade is dumped on the head coach at the end of the game.
Takeaway: Even if betting isn’t your bag, there is a strong case to be made about how gamification affects peoples’ level of investment in an event. If people are introduced to a little friendly competition they’re likely to stick around and continue engaging with your content.
P.S. Check out some of our favorite gamification suggestions here!
Anyone who was on Instagram following the halftime show would have noticed the onslaught of memes and commentary about the performance. The Super Bowl thrives on spectacle, so online users are naturally inclined to post about their experience watching the game. Those who didn’t watch the game see this online commentary and likely feel like they’ve missed a cultural moment.
Takeaway: Create opportunities for your audience to generate content and commentary of your event. While you may not want your audience creating memes about you, you can offer social media walls and photo booths where they’ll be able to see their post and other attendees’ posts about your event. Not only does it foster a feeling of inclusivity at the event, it also helps you extend the reach of your event to their networks.
Even for non-football fans like me, the Super Bowl organizers have mastered the art of hooking people and keeping them interested throughout the game. Taking one or a few tips from these master event planners will surely help your team host better hybrid events in the future as well. Maybe you’ve found your own inspiration from the Super Bowl this year!
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Hybrid Events
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