An Insider’s Look at Preparing for the Super Bowl
An Insider’s Look at Preparing for the Super Bowl

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

On Sunday night, while people were munching on nachos and spicy wings, rooting for or against Peyton Manning or Richard Sherman, taking in the game and the spectacle that was Super Bowl XLVIII, Gil Fried was thinking about potential security lapses.

He was wondering how well the months-long marketing blitz actually worked and considering the miles of cables and wires set in place throughout the stadium and how one small glitch could turn MetLife Stadium dark, a predicament the big game faced last year.

Gil Fried

A relaxed Super Bowl party host he isn’t. Fried knows too much. 

“That is why my kids hate going with me to sporting events,” he said. “The brain is always working and examining things going on.”

Fried, professor and chair of the management of sports industries program in the College of Business, is an expert in the areas of sport risk management, sport facility management and sport finance. He’s written many books, including textbooks used at more than 100 universities in the United States, and he lectures around the country on facility risk management, crowd management, venue safety and sports violence.

Suffice it to say Fried wasn’t just sitting around debating his favorite commercial during the big game, which was watched by more than 111.5 million people, a Super Bowl record.

“I wish I could relax,” he said. “I normally have a party at the house. Special attention is given to the advertisements.” But his focus tends to be on “looking for risk management concerns, marketing issues and a host of other concerns.”

So much of the behind-the-scenes work – in security, marketing and logistics – goes unseen by the viewing audience until, or unless, there is trouble. That’s the part that fascinates Fried.
Security was on the forefront of his mind. According to Fox Sports, there were an estimated 700 state troopers, 3,000 private security guards and hundreds of additional officers from FBI to Homeland Security. Fried said there were “over 100 entities working together to secure the game and surrounding area.

“There are so many layers of security, it is mind boggling,” Fried said. “There are also so many different federal, state, local, municipal, league and team officials that it is very hard to coordinate everyone and make sure everyone is on the same page.  The best-laid plan can crumble if only one person leaves a door or gate unattended.”

Fried said the viewing audience probably can’t entirely take in just how much energy is used during a typical NFL game, never mind a Super Bowl in which the energy use is doubled.

“That is why protecting the energy flows is so critical,” he said. “Last year there was an energy outage during the Super Bowl, and that showed that not having the lights on can kill a game.”

Marketing took on a kind of life of its own, Fried said, becoming a story in its own right and one that could be a case study in the classroom.

“For weeks before the game, news stories highlighted not just the game but clips of commercials,” he said. “I have seen several previews designed to increase the hype of a commercial.  This year there was a story about SodaStream and how their advertisement was banned, allegedly because Scarlett Johansson, their spokesperson, apologizes to Coke and Pepsi. Since those two companies advertise so much during the game, the network wanted that part of the advertisement cut. This generated significant publicity for SodaStream.”

A Super Bowl in a cold-weather climate brought it its own challenges, Fried said, but the big X factor, the weather, ended up not playing a role.

Fried said it will be some time before NFL officials can determine if the first Northeast Super Bowl was ultimately a success, but he thinks it will be remembered favorably. However, the state of New Jersey likely won’t reap the monetary benefits that New York City did, because much of the pre-game hoopla happened around Times Square.

Fried doesn’t predict a trend on hosting future Super Bowls in colder climates. “Big spenders typically prefer a warm weather Super Bowl and all that goes along with it,” he said.

While many gathered at favorite bars and restaurants to watch the Super Bowl, most viewers around the globe were watching the game at home. It has come to be called a “de facto American national holiday.” It’s also a day of superlatives: one of the most watched TV broadcasts of the year, featuring the most costly commercials at $4 million for a 30-second spot, the most food consumed on any day of the year, save for Thanksgiving, and the biggest day for a house party – as 39 million people planned to throw a party and another 61 million to attend one.

In years past, Fried would make all kinds of food for a house full of family and friends. But this year, he said, his wife was buying pizza. He compared commercials with everyone, sure, but he still had one eye on the logistics.

He was also focused on the game itself, cheering on the Broncos. “The Seahawks beat my team, the 49ers,” he said. “So I wanted a little revenge.”

Despite all his research, he still isn’t sure what makes football fans out of so many people each Super Bowl Sunday. “Maybe it is such a big-scale event,” he said. “Maybe they love the competition. Maybe they have a passion for their team or town. Or maybe they're watching just for the commercials."

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