This Just In

Landing the Super Bowl: It’s All About ‘The Show’


Detroit – Making presentations is a way of life for trade show managers, CVBs and other industry executives. But trotting out the old Power Point charts and graphs might not always give you the edge you need to sell your show, your services or your city. Just ask Detroit.

With an auto industry facing challenges and the old Rust Belt image embedded in many people’s minds, Detroit set out to host a Super Bowl. Their goal: to change the conversation about Detroit to reflect its resurgence in the Midwest and celebrate its history at the same time. It cost $265,000 and two years of planning to win the bid.  Here’s what they did.

First, Ford Motor Company Chairman and  CEO Bill Ford Jr. asked race driver and entrepreneur Roger Penske — a man with international name recognition and respect in sports — to chair the host committee. “That can’t be overshadowed,” said Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Many (NFL) owners knew and respected him already.”

Second, they emphasized the new domed stadium at Ford Field where the game would be played. Having Ford family backing from William Clay Ford Sr. and Bill Ford Jr. helped as well.  They made a  big difference, said Host Committee executive director Susan Sherer.

Then they got a commitment from city and corporate leaders to back the bid. That even extended to getting all three major automakers to cooperate in supporting a related event, The Motown Winter Blast., which was a consumer exhibition held outdoors and in numerous tents all along Woodward Ave.   Since General Motors had an exclusive deal already with the NFL, the committee had to convince them that it was to everyone’s advantage to have the entire auto industry represented.

But the presentation to the NFL owners was the key, Alexander said. “I admit I went over the top a bit,” he said. It was so over the top that the host committee  had to ask  the NFL for permission to do the presentation in a special way, Sherer said.

A ‘Moving’ Presentation

Detroit built a 36-foot revolving stage complete with People Mover doors that opened in grand fashion to reveal Roger Penske, then-Mayor Dennis Archer and other presenters touting the benefits of Detroit. At the end of the presentation, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones jumped up, hugged  Penske and Archer, and said everyone in the country should see that show. According to Alexander, the point of the lavish set was to illustrate the standard the city would strive to meet in all aspects of hosting the Super Bowl.

It worked. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Penske’s presence added credibility to the effort. “Larry got (the owners) excited about coming to Detroit,” Sherer said. “I give Larry all the credit for that.”

In winning the bid for the 2006 Super Bowl XL, Detroit became the first northern city to host the NFL’s big game twice. Only one other northern city—Minneapolis—has hosted the game at all.

The host committee had a budget of $18 million to stage the event. But Detroit estimates it will end up with $300 million in direct economic benefit, according to Alexander. The city is awaiting the final economic impact study from St. Louis-based Sports Impact. Just as importantly, the city and its state-of-the art facilities earned kudos from many who went. Sherer said the city was able to follow through with the high standards they set in the presentation. “We performed at a high level, provided what guests needed and made sure the NFL was comfortable with our vision and how we used their product,” she said. “You have to take care with how you treat someone else’s product.”

Five Tips for Creating a Winning Bid

Alexander and Sherer shared some advice for other cities or facilities bidding on a major event:

Understand what you want to get out of hosting the event and then backtrack to decide how best to accomplish that.

Use your strengths to magnify your abilities. Alexander said Detroit embraced winter weather instead of trying to hide it and emphasized the fact that the city had great venues for related events despite colder weather.

Get buy-in from the hospitality and corporate community whose support you will need to make the event successful.

Make sure all related local organizations are informed about who is coming to town and what kinds of events of their own they may stage. Sherer said it’s important for local groups to have that information so they can leverage networking opportunities.

If you’re successful in getting the entire community excited about the event, be ready for them to be ready for more once it’s over.

“We had a tidal wave of positive emotion about the city,” Sherer said.  Now that it’s over, Detroit hopes to reap additional rewards for its efforts. Detroit already is on the books for several major sporting events, including NCAA Final Four in 2009. Now the CVB has been asked to bid on several conventions as a direct result of hosting the Super Bowl. “They’re considering us because they see we have the facilities and infrastructure to host a major event,” Alexander said.

Reach Larry Alexander (313) 202-1800 or; Susan Sherer at (313) 262-2041 or

TSE Data Center