Behind the Super Bowl: Catering to the Crazy Fans
Vendors selling snacks, popcorn and souvenirs are the staple of every sporting event, and the Super Bowl is certainly no exception. However, the Super Bowl attracts many high-powered corporations and businesses in addition to regular fans. Many of these fans attend the huge tailgate party that surrounds the arena in the hours before kickoff.
That provides an opportunity for not only the expected sporting event vendors to peddle their wares; but also, other small businesses have a chance to present their more specialized offerings at one of the biggest sports parties of the year.
Francine Powers and Melanie Albert are small business owners and entrepreneurs who have attended several Super Bowl games over the years. For them, the business of participating at the Super Bowl is comprised of several parts hard work, lots of preparation ... and, garnering a lifetime of fun-filled memories as well.
Q.Tell us about your business and its role at each Super Bowl.
A. Melanie: My business is Experience Nutrition. We are launching this new business, Experience Nutrition at the Super Bowl, as an official health and wellness partner of the NFL alumni association; Dave Craig, the veteran quarterback, is going to be our spokesman. What we do is educate current and former professional athletes, and the sports fan community, so they really enjoy food and enjoy life. We train the former professional athletes in good nutrition and they become mentors for the fans too. We're going to be teaching the former NFL players to prepare and enjoy foods that contain healthy fats.
Francine: We are a full-service catering company named We're Having A Party, and we started participating with the Super Bowl in Miami back in 1995 and have participated at three Super Bowls since then. At past Super Bowls we have provided meals for companies that coordinated the half-time show for several weeks leading up to the game and on the actual game day. We also have participated in the big tailgate event that precedes the game. That means we could be dealing with between 10-15 thousand people.
There are also lots of different corporate tents and events surrounding the stadium ... and when we participated last year, we were one out of about 30 companies contracted by the NFL party planners to have a station preparing food for many of these festivities.
M: This year we will be part of the NFL alumni events and other NFL-sanctioned events. This is actually my fourth Super Bowl; but the first year when the Super Bowl was out here in Phoenix, my company developed three products that were healthy and lifestyle oriented ... and we were fortunate enough to have a licensing agreement with the NFL to have the Super Bowl logo placed on those products. These items were sold at the NFL Experience, which is a large store on site that sells merchandise to the fans.
Q.What was it like being at the Super Bowl in the past?
A. F: It's not too nerve-racking after you've participated in it a few times. We have to prepare all our food for the events from our own commissary and then have it transported to the stadium. We might start preparing a couple of days ahead of time; it makes sense to get as much prep-work done as far in advance as possible. Also, there's a lot of security checks. So we have to have all our employees credentialed and their photos taken and other logistical considerations taken care of a couple of months before game day.
M: The last two years, I've been at NFL tailgate parties. For me personally, I love food and football, and the main thing about being part of the VIP tailgate party is the energy and excitement of the fans. When you are in the venue, you literally feel the excitement and the energy. People are just so excited to go the the game ... and to be just so close to the stadium and interacting with fans that are on their way into the stadium, it's almost like the chance of a lifetime. It's definitely something you'll remember your whole life.
Q.How crazy can it get for you as a vendor?
A. M: You have to prepare really well before you go to these events. When one Super Bowl is over, that's when you start preparing for the next one. Part of it is being very organized yourself, because working for the NFL, they are very organized. You show up and you have an area to prep. You deliver your food at a certain time and then you have to be ready at a certain time. There's actually a countdown. It's a little bit hectic, but it's an organized kind of hectic, and if you stay on track with getting prepared, it's a lot of fun and you are able to just enjoy the moment.
F: It really is a wonderful experience. It is so exciting because you have all of these people who have paid a lot of money to come see the Super Bowl. I think it has been especially exciting when the Super Bowl was held here in Miami because you have a lot of fans who have come down from the cold weather areas, and it really has a nice warm flavor, in so many ways, that really makes the event a little more exciting. As a vendor, it's a great opportunity to showcase your company, and it's an honor to be selected by the NFL and the party planners to participate.
Q.What's your favorite memory of being at the Super Bowl?
F: The most fun for me on a professional level is to interact with the guests. They bring a lot of energy to the event and many of them have never been to a Super Bowl before. It's a huge deal for them. Also, especially for a small business like ours, it's great for us to be operating in an arena with an event that takes place on such a grand scale.
M: The VIP tailgate party was getting ready to go live on TV, and the loudspeaker announced we were going live to a TV audience of 100 million fans who are watching the pre-game show, and I remember that like it was yesterday. It was so exciting to be part of this national event that millions of people were watching.
Q.What is the most challenging part of the event?
M: I don't know if there are any challenges for me in my viewpoint. It's all so organized and I see it as fun and exciting. It's just a wonderful opportunity.
Q.What's it like interacting with the fans at the Super Bowl?
M: You just feel energy coming from all of these fans. Everybody is so excited, they're so happy, they're so positive. Some of the fans on the street can get pretty crazy and you'd think it was Mardi Gras, or something. At the VIP area where I've worked, it's a bit calmer and there's a more positive energy.
F: For the tailgate party where my business was located, you have a lot of corporate people and you tend to find a bit less wildness that you might find among the regular fans attending the game. It's just a bit more relaxed atmosphere. However, I also enjoy the camaraderie among the fellow business owners because everyone gets a chance to chat with each other. Everyone is very pumped and very excited and it's also nice to meet people and other businesses that are participating for the first time.
Q.As a repeat Super Bowl vendor, does it become easier each year?
M: I think after working with the Super Bowl over four years, I have so much more confidence. So, in a sense, it becomes easier but there's still a lot of work that goes into it because of the high standards of the NFL, especially in regards to the Super Bowl, as well as the high standards I have for my own company.
Q.Do you get a chance to enjoy the game yourself?
M: The last three years, I did not go to the game. It was all work, work, work ... but, this year I'm going with my family to the game. Our last responsibility as as vendor is on Saturday night during a player networking event, then catering a private dinner. But, come Sunday morning, we're heading to the stadium to be there about 1PM to enjoy the game, so I'm really excited.
F: I'm from Trinidad originally, so I don't know the game of football all that well. However, just being part of the overall game experience is always very exciting and enjoying the energy that's in the air, as well as the half-time show, is a real treat. My favorite part of the whole experience are the jets that fly over the stadium before the game starts. They play the national anthem, and then right after that, there's five or six fighter jets that come in really low over the stadium.
The first time I saw that at the Super Bowl in 1995, I nearly cried and it really makes me emotional. It's such a powerful moment and it really gives you the feeling that this is a great event and this is a great country, which especially means a lot to someone like me as an immigrant, who is able to participate.
Q.How has the Super Bowl benefited you from a business standpoint?
F: It's always great for me professionally because I'm able to get lots of great ideas. The people who help organize the NFL events, called Party Planners West, are at the cutting edge of the event business. You get a chance to see lots of different ways to do things, so I make an effort to walk through the other vendor tents and see if there some ideas that may be of value to me in the future.
M: The participation with the Super Bowl and the NFL over these last three years has really given me the foundation to take my business to a whole new national level and bring a national presence to my brand.