I am a Jersey girl. I was born, raised, went to college, and settled in this bountiful Garden State. And I am proud we had the opportunity to host the Big Game this year. I have thought a lot about the arguments put forth regarding the NY versus NJ headlines. The anger leading up to February 2nd escalated to the point where social media posts were going viral…by people who didn’t even care about football. And I’m not sure if they understood that the NFL awarded the Super Bowl to the “New York/New Jersey region.” I admit, I wasn’t happy to see the Seinfeld piece touting NY. All promotions should have recognized the area as a whole. But in my mind, there are three big lessons to be learned from New Jersey’s Big Game experience.
The first lesson is something we teach to our children but don’t always remember in our own life: put yourself in the other person’s shoes. In this particular case, the other person is the fan. In PR, we call this knowing your audience. When a fan is paying for tickets, airfare, and a hotel stay, he or she is in essence planning a mini vacation. And how does one go about planning a vacation? They look for local tourist attractions. Quite frankly, the biggest tourist attraction of northern New Jersey is Manhattan. I mean, isn’t easy access to the cultural capital of the world the reason why many of us live here anyway? So, we shouldn’t be angry that many fans chose to stay and play in the City. If you were visiting your family in Bedford, Massachusetts, wouldn’t you want to visit (if not stay) in Boston?
The second lesson is taught in Event Planning 101: give yourself ample time to properly PLAN an event. The only way the State of New Jersey could have REALLY wooed fans to stay on this side of the Hudson would have been with one monstrous event. With the four years notice we were given, serious partnerships could have been developed to program, publicize, and fundraise for something that rivaled…no, was better than…Manhattan’s Super Bowl Blvd. It seems a sub-committee of the Host should have produced an RFP to give one organization ownership of the planning process. Footballs on parade leading to an exposition center sounds like a touchdown to me. Think Comic Con for Football Fanatics
The final lesson to learn from New Jersey’s Big Game experience is that which Montclair had the mind to eventually recognize. Since no one monstrous event emerged, many towns planned their own “winter festivals” for the weekend of February 2nd. However, their intentions were to attract out-of-town ticketholders and turn a profit. This was a mistake. Such events are wonderful community programs and absolutely worth having. Their goal, however, should be seen as building community pride and thus facilitating economic development. Let’s face it: that is how towns grow and get featured…in the New York Times.
That girl who was smart enough to pull her RFP bid from Rutherford’s Winter Festival
Kelly Ann Ziek is a community focused PR and fundraising consultant.