A look inside a Super Bowl venue (with apologies to Joseph Mitchell).
There will be dancing girls in the windows, we're told. We're being walked through the Bud Light Hotel - the temporarily transformed Wyndham Hotel, which has been heavily decked out in Bud Light blue including a blue carpet instead of a red one that leads to a patio. Just days ago, it didn't exist; it was the guests' drive to the front door. The patio has a bar - naturally - seating, and windows where tonight and throughout the weekend, there will be dancers. A Bud Light-themed fountain is the patio's centerpiece, arcing water arc over aluminum Bud Light bottles on metallic pedestals.
Up a flight of stairs, we're seated on an observation deck from which we can see the B and H that will light up at night, and I assume the L is obscured by the backdrop for a press conference. The sun is not this landscape's preferred light source, and it empowers the birds nesting nearby to tweet non-social media-ly as three video cameras and a handful of media members wait patiently for the mayor to show up. He didn't, but a representative from Bud Light lets us know about the "Green Team," a partnership with AAA to provide eco-friendly help should anybody in the area between Convention Center Boulevard and the Dome suffer a flat tire, a lockout or a dead battery (call 1-877-AAA-7111), after which we are offered a ride in the battery-operated cars that will be part of the assistance fleet, along with segways.
The tour continues across the walkway carpeted with Bud Light blue outdoor turf over Convention Center Boulevard, to the tented venue that will hold almost 4,000 guests. Workers are putting final touches on the grounds while the video screens inside show ESPN's Sports Center, of course. In hours, those screens will show computer-generated football players in action as NFL stars play against each other in EA Sports' Madden Bowl before Lil Wayne and Big Boi perform.
This is what happened to the Super Bowl in the last decade while it took place in venues other than New Orleans. It became more than just an event that catered to America's high rollers; it became a premier event for corporate America. Audi, GQ, AXS TV/DirecTV and more have parties. Verizon is sponsoring a weekend of free music at Woldenberg Park. The events promise celebrities, "celebrities," and countless football players.
Bud Light got into the Super Bowl circus four years ago in Miami when it debuted the Bud Light Hotel concept. According to Tom Kraus, senior brand manager for Bud Light, "We wanted to become more about our fans," he says. "The corporate is always going to a side of the Super Bowl because everybody wants to be a part of it, but for us, we wanted have something we could rely on that's more of a consumer promotion, where we could bring people who couldn't sit in the fancy seats and make them a part of Super Bowl." This year, he estimates that it will also funnel millions into the local economy.
Originally, the Bud Light Hotel was more modest and had to exist outside the "clean zone," a term few New Orleanians had ever heard before the last few weeks. Two years ago, Bud Light became the official beer sponsor of the NFL, and that allowed the company to raise its profile. It's now a more integral part of the NFL's footprint in the host city, and it houses 5,000 people, up from 500 the first year. "We're part of the fabric," Kraus says. "NFL embraces it. We have greater visibility to consumers and from a media perspective."
Kraus won't reveal what the company spends on the Bud Light Hotel, but however much it is, he says it pays off. "When we go through the numbers and we analyze our exposure from a media perspective and number of consumers that we touch, it's a positive return," he says. "We're not spending money to spend money." Since launching the Bud Light Hotel, the company has successfully tried the hotel concept in conjunction with non-Super Bowl events and plans to expand it.
Over the course of the weekend, Bud Light's party venue will also host Rolling Stone's party with Pitbull and Flo Rida before its own Saturday night show with Stevie Wonder and Gary Clark Jr. How did they decide on Wonder? "Stevie's been a part of our NFL strategy all year long," Kraus says. "His 'Very Superstitious' song has been in our TV spots all year long. This is the capstone of the football season. It wraps everything together."