The countdown is on to corporate party time.
It's less than 100 days to Super Bowl XLVIII, and marketers are beginning to share their pre-game party playbooks. On tap: unique, swanky event venues, celebrity performances, top-shelf liquor and gourmet fare.
The events leading up to the Feb. 2 game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., are expected to be so extravagant — and so numerous — that even the most avid party animal might have a tough time keeping up.
On Tuesday, Anheuser-Busch InBev will announce that it's transforming a docked Norwegian Cruise Line ship into a massive "Bud Light Hotel" lodging space and entertainment venue.
Since 2010, A-B has taken over a hotel in the Super Bowl host city, but this year, the beer behemoth "decided to go bigger than we've gone before," says Rob McCarthy, vice president of Bud Light.
The Bud Light Hotel — which will encompass the Norwegian Getaway cruise ship and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum next door — will have space for about 4,000 people in 1,900 staterooms. There will be 22 bars and restaurants. Lodging will be available Thursday before the game through Monday morning.
A-B will plaster the Bud Light moniker on thousands of pillows, hand towels, shampoo bottles and other shipboard items, and will host concerts, business meetings and other gatherings in its event area. That space will include the Getaway, the deck of the retired military ship the Intrepid, its pier and the surrounding area.
"We're able to handle 10 times as many people as we have had in the past" by securing a cruise ship instead of taking over a traditional hotel, McCarthy says. Guests will be a mixture of consumers, retailers, business partners and others.
A-B joins a bevy of other firms that are planning over-the-top Super Bowl fetes.
American Media brands Shape Magazine and Men's Fitness magazine will co-host a Jan. 31 shindig with big-name performers including Mary J. Blige, John Legend and Marc Anthony.
DirecTV is planning two super-sized Super Bowl soirees: a beach-themed bash the afternoon of Feb. 1 and a more sophisticated event that evening.
Some party throwers, such as Shape and Men's Fitness, are organizing their first-ever Super Bowl bashes. Others, such as DirecTV and men's publication Maxim, are perennial partiers, annually having parties in Big Game host cities.
EXPENDITURES PAY OFF IN PUBLICITY
The party buzz is already building for this year's game, which will be played just outside New York City.
The Big Apple is not only headquarters to myriad media, marketing and event-planning companies who want to show off their party-planning capabilities, but it's also home to a smorgasbord of A-list celebrities, fashion models and big-name CEOs who can dramatically up the cool quotient at these already hip Super Bowl shindigs.
"Nothing is bigger than New York," Maxim president Ben Madden told Crain's New York Business in discussing his firm's 2014 Super Bowl party plans. "We'll have to take it up to another level in terms of the kind of party we throw."
There are big opportunities in a city known for its top-rated restaurants, flashy nightclubs and unique party venues. But there are also challenges.
"It's New York – everyone's standards are so much higher," says Jon Gieselman, senior vice president for marketing at DirecTV. "We're not only competing with other companies that are putting on events, but we're also competing with everything the city of New York has to offer."
He wouldn't disclose DirecTV's budget, only saying it was a "sizable investment" and that some costs are offset by sponsors who underwrite the events.
He says DirecTV's expenditures pay off in publicity and enabling employees to network with business contacts in a unique setting.
"We're able to entertain 6,000 of our closest friends in the business that work with us day in and day out throughout the year," Gieselman says. "That provides us with a lot of goodwill."
Patrón Tequila is one of the many brands helping Super Bowl party hosts to cut costs. For the 2014 game, it will provide mixed cocktails and entertainment ideas for theMaxim party and events put on by GQ magazine and movie director Michael Bay.
Super Bowl parties are the ideal venue to sample their liquor, says Patrón national events director Pam Dzierzanowski, noting that most guests are "movers and shakers" who can afford to buy a bottle of tequila that costs around $45.
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SOME EVENTS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Many of the events are invite-only, but some brands will offer access to the general public.
Sports and culinary agent Lonny Sweet is working with the New York Jets to set up a hospitality area, deemed the Jets House, within a larger 50 Yard Lounge food and entertainment area he will create in Manhattan.
"By day, (it will be) for the Jets fan and Jets season ticketholder, and by night, it's for corporate hospitality," says Seth Rabinowitz, Jets senior vice president for marketing and fan engagement.
The daytime events "will be a blend of no-cost and perhaps pay," he says. The Jets House will provide patrons with food and drinks and will have Jets cheerleaders and former players there.
Some consumers will win access to the Bud Light Hotel through national and local promotions.
The public can attend DirecTV's Feb. 1 afternoon Celebrity Beach Bowl — where TV stars, singers and former National Football League stars play flag football — free on a first-come, first-serve basis.
DirecTV expects to have about 4,500 people at that daytime event, which will take place in an 80,000-square-foot tent filled with a million pounds of sand. That night, they'll make the scene over for a "Super Saturday Night"-themed party with 6,000 invitation-only guests.
The Feb. 2014 game will be the eighth year that DirecTV has allowed the public access to its beach party.
"We decided early on, 'Why not open it up to the public of the host city and give them a chance to participate in some of the events," he says. "(Those who) get up early and get online can get a seat free of charge."