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The Super Bowl As Economic Game Changer

It doesn't matter who wins the NFL Championship.

Stephen Weistead | Blend  Images | Getty Images

Sound like heresy? Though the final teams may have an impact on how much apparel and accessories people buy, the same economic players stand to benefit each year. Starting with the host city and trickling down to T-shirt vendors and party planners, these are the real winners of the game.

What’s more, how big the bump is, could be a good indicator of what’s to come for the economy in 2011.

This year, the National Retail Federation, NRF, estimates that $10.1 billion will be spent on the Super Bowl, that’s up from $8.87 billion in 2010, and almost double the $5.8 billion people spent last year on Halloween.

Adults over 18 will buy everything from food and beverages to new televisions, furniture, team paraphernalia, and decorations. The net average each person will spend is $59.33

“It’s like a little litmus test of what the year could look like. We’re seeing good signs at this point,” says Mike Gatti, executive director of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association at the NRF.

It’s no wonder that cities compete for big sporting events.

This year between 150,000 and 200,000 out-of-towners are expected to descend on the Dallas metropolitan (basically the four counties—Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton—surrounding the stadium in Arlington), according to Tony Fay, communications director for the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee.

“The state required us to do an economic impact study,” says Fay, “The number that came back was $611 million.” This means that either directly, through dollars spent in the region, or indirectly, by way of that money funneling through the system, “It’s a good shot in the arm to our economy.”

The North Texas Host Committee was also able to secure 12 $1-million sponsors ,who privately kicked in money to help fund the effort.

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“The previous record [for a host committee], according to the NFL, was two. Our fundraising has been outstanding,” adds Fay.

Jay Burress, president and CEO of the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau, agrees. “We were expecting heavy calls from the Green Bay and Pittsburgh areas, but we’ve seen calls coming from all over the country. Whether people have a ticket or not, they want to come to the region and enjoy all the activities.”

While the host city scores every year, the fact that the Super Bowl is being played in the two-year-old Cowboys Stadium (the big game has never been played in the Dallas are before) and is featuring two classic NFL teams in the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers with huge fan bases, also lends cache and will impact demand.

“This match up is as good as it gets from a Super Bowl retail merchandise perspective,” says Steve Sodell, president of Sports Fan Marketing, one of only five NFL-approved temporary onsite Super Bowl merchandise retailers.

According to the NFL, the Steelers rank number one and the Packers eight in terms of top- selling team merchandise.

Business of the Super Bowl - See Complete Coverage
Business of the Super Bowl - See Complete Coverage

“We’ve had seven retail stores open in Dallas since mid-November for all the locals to catch the Super Bowl spirit and to catch a piece of history,” says Sodell.

In the two weeks leading up to the game, he is opening additional locations, and by the time the fans arrive into town, he has a total of 16 temporary stores.

Sodell, whose calendar is marked by events like the NCAA Men’s Final Four, the MLB All Star Game and World Series, says “the Super Bowl is probably 60 percent of my annual income."

Beyond the local economy, supermarkets, fast-food delivery, caterers and party planners across the country will also get a mid-winter spike.

Sherri Foxman, president and chief creative officer of Party411.com in Cleveland, Ohio, says the Super Bowl is a huge boost to her business.

“When people have a Christmas party, we don’t see this big a surge in sales because everybody keeps their decorations from year to year,” says Foxman

Foxman says people buy an incredible amount of party props: Invitations (the ones that look like tickets are popular), special label-candy bars and water bottles, betting pool boards, plastic table coverings that look like the field, paper plates in the shape of jerseys, and football-shaped hats, sunglasses and clappers. Party411.com also sells life-size cutouts, where you send in a picture of your face and they can make your whole family into football players.

“All this stuff just makes the party more fun, besides the food,” she says.

Dave Bialek, president of ANC Sports Marketing in Purchase, N.Y. watches the Super Bowl closely—not only for the play by play, but because his business of providing signage and sponsorship programs at venues like Cowboys Stadium, as well as high-profile New York baseball teams such as the Yankees and Mets, is closely correlated to the economy.

Bialek is encouraged by the way corporate partners are returning to the Super Bowl. Fox, the game broadcaster, sold out its stable of commercials in early October (30-second spots fetched between $2.8 million and 3 million dollars a piece this year), and General Motors is back with the game, developments which Bialek says speak to the health of the economy.

“Although I wouldn’t necessarily draw that correlation without being pressed, the Super Bowl’s success will correlate to the rest of the economy."