Super lessons from the Super Bowl

5 hours and counting. Can you tell who we were cheering for?

Five hours and counting until Super Bowl XLIX. Can you tell who we were cheering for?

by Kristin Helvey, APR, president/owner, Helvey Communications

This year, my husband and I took our first Super Bowl trip. The football hype began upon landing. Airport workers wore jerseys, balloons lined hallways and murals covered the baggage claim. This was, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. For four days, we were enveloped by building-sized endorsements, crazed fans jumping around in the background shots of athlete interviews (if you saw someone that looked like me, I probably just have a twin), live bands playing ear-shattering music, and more beer than should be allowed in any one place.

I was in love.

As an event professional though, I couldn’t shake the nagging question: How do you pull this off? The number of working parts it takes to execute something of this magnitude astounded me. Soon, I was approaching everything I encountered through a planning lens. What would the process for XYZ look like? (…My husband enjoyed this, too. Not.)

I realized something. Regardless of professional experience, huge, high-profile projects can be daunting. Thankfully, however, fundamentals always apply. Here are a few that stood out last week:

  • Create exclusive experiences. The Super Bowl is much more than a football game. It’s a weeklong phenomenon. Find creative ways to infuse life into your project/event, and provide opportunities to feel like an “insider.” People enjoy showing off these experiences.
  • Don’t underestimate in-person interactions. In the digital era, I assumed an event this size would put less emphasis on face-to-face tactics. Wrong! Meet and greets and photo opps were highlights of our trip. Personal interactions are important.
  • Expect the unexpected. Restaurants ran out of food. And it rained for two days. In Phoenix. Plan for the unexpected.
  • Correct misinformation. Leading up to the game, ticket vendors pre-sold tickets they didn’t have. This is bad. It is worse that notices were given with such inadequate explanations about how this could happen. Of course, angry customers made their own assumptions. Give information, even when it’s hard.
  • Evaluate. Again. Plans can fail. Circumstances change, and sometimes assumptions are just wrong. It happened in the last play of the game, and it happens everywhere else. Evaluate along the way, and make necessary changes.

I may never plan a Super Bowl. Admittedly though, it helps my ego to know it’s not magic. We work hard to stay abreast of changing trends and technologies—but as we vie to lead the cutting edge, don’t abandon the basics!

Kristin Helvey, APR, is the president and owner of Helvey Communications, an Alaska-based professional communications company. Inspired by the potential strategic communication has to effect positive change, Kristin opened Helvey Communications in 2010 and now consults with and assists organizations and individuals to improve internal communications and community standing. A lover of sports and a self-proclaimed “foodie,” Kristin is already making plans for Super Bowl L. If you wonder why there are no photos inside the actual stadium…well, that’s a funny story.


Getting ready for the big game.

Getting ready for the big game.

Front row at the Little Big Town concert. See those green beads she's wearing? Yep. Those are (were) mine.

Front row at the Little Big Town concert during the NFL On Location pre-party. See those green beads she’s wearing? Yep. Those are (were) mine.

These 12th men don't mess around.

These 12th men don’t mess around.

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