Economic Impact Study: Phoenix Scores Big with Super Bowl XLII

April 23, 2008

Arizona brought its "A" game to the Super Bowl -- both on the field and off -- with a winning coordination of events at Glendale's University of Phoenix Stadium, including a stunning New York Giants victory over a New England Patriots team that turned out to be imperfect after all. A memorable week of Super Bowl festivities generated a record $500.6 million in direct and indirect spending by visiting fans and organizations.

"It's the single greatest injection of economic development ever in Arizona for a sporting event of its type," said Ray Artique, a professor of practice in the marketing department at the W. P. Carey School of Business and executive director of the Sports Business MBA. Artigue is also a member of the Super Bowl XLII Host Committee, and one of the coordinators of the newly released Super Bowl impact study produced by the W. P. Carey MBA Sports Business program.

"The gross impact of a half billion dollars into the Arizona marketplace brings rejuvenation to an economy that has been weakened by a recession," Artigue said. "It brings our collective business heads above water with an economic shot in the arm to the state, county and Phoenix area. It also provides great momentum and the potential of a ripple effect in years to come that could equal the direct and indirect spending from Super Bowl XLII."

Michael Mokwa, chairman of the W. P. Carey School's marketing department and academic advisor to the sports business program is equally sanguine.

"The money is just the tip of the iceberg," said Mokwa, who helped design and supervise the survey. "Thousands and thousands of people who came here for the Super Bowl, of whom many had never been to the Valley before, took away powerful memories and good feelings about Arizona." This translates, he said, into coveted return visits, family and business relocations, and word-of-mouth marketing throughout the country. Priceless, as MasterCard is fond of saying.

Promotion potential

"You couldn't pick a better target market for promoting Arizona than Super Bowl attendees," noted marketing Professor James Ward, who also participated in the study. "It's an incredible demographic: business executives and owners, opinion leaders and affluent individuals."

A week of international media coverage, on camera and in the Arizona datelines, adds to the ripple potential, as snowbound viewers and readers realize you can sit by the pool here in February and play golf without having to shovel the greens. Indeed, the weather here -- sunny and 70 in winter -- turns heads, said Ward. Lots of them.

Early projections of $450 million in direct and indirect Super Bowl spending were not hype, coming in just $50 million shy of the mark. Add in an estimated $180 million or more in gross revenues from the Thunderbird's FBR Open, as reported in the 2007 FBR impact study, and the total is spectacular. "The Super Bowl exceeded all expectations in every way," said Ward.

Arizona has game

"Arizona is fast gaining on its national reputation for managing high profile events very effectively and with remarkable results," added Mokwa. The Phoenix metro area has hosted two Super Bowls, two BCS (Bowl Championship Series) national college football games, the annual Fiesta Bowl, an NBA All Star Game (with a second scheduled for next February), and the NCAA March Madness Regionals. The city is under consideration for a Final Four Championship as well. Count on many of these as repeat events, including the Super Bowl every four to five years, because this state has game.

"We have the seasoned professionals here to execute, and a faithful base of 10,000 trained volunteers," observed Artigue. "Climate and location are equally significant factors, and make the Phoenix area stand out as one of the few places in America that can offer such a venue and pull it off with the kind of focus, sophistication and grace that attracts legions of fans to come here for more than just the game."

And that was the strategy from the start, when planning for Super Bowl XLII began in 2003. "Governor Janet Napolitano said she wanted this to be Arizona's Super Bowl, not one that resembled Miami, Detroit or Jacksonville," said Bob Sullivan, president of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and president of the 2012 Bid Committee. "And so we spread out wide and far early on to generate interest and special events leading up to Super Bowl Week. We did road trips around the state with the Super Bowl mascot. We had Super Bowl-related educational programs in the schools and youth football clinics. We wanted to insure that Arizona embraced this event statewide."

"This wasn't about a game or a week," added Sullivan. "Our efforts were about Arizona as the host state and producing the best Super Bowl possible. We wanted to create a sense of variety for visitors when they came here for the game -- a range that says Tempe, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Glendale all have something special and different to offer."

The effort paid off, as evidenced by ASU's Super Bowl XLII impact study. In direct, indirect and ripple impacts, Arizona benefited tremendously from Super Bowl Week.

Perhaps one of the most significant conclusions of the ASU study is that it underscores the reality that Super Bowl Week was more than just a shootout between the Giants and Patriots. The three-month study was conducted by a research team of W. P. Carey students who scoured the metropolitan Phoenix area before, during and after the Feb. 3 Super Bowl to gauge the game's economic impacts statewide.

The study, compiled for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and funded in part by the Arizona Department of Commerce, surveyed 1,100 respondents who had tickets to the game and 494 who did not -- all of whom indicated they traveled to Arizona for the Super Bowl or Super Bowl-related events. The average stay was close to four nights. Respondents were asked a variety of questions including: the purpose of their trip, method of transportation, where they were staying, and total spending in a range of categories, among other queries.

"The W. P. Carey MBA Sports Business research team did a very comprehensive and sophisticated job of designing the study and then compiling the most accurate information possible," said Mokwa. "To our knowledge, the National Football League or any Super Bowl host committee had never before sanctioned a major study like this with an academic institution, which speaks to this university's competence, reputation and integrity."

Any way you measure the study results, they add up to a record Super Bowl Week on all fronts, from the corporate elite to those in the Valley who survive on gratuities. "Winners included organizations and businesses close to Super Bowl events, as well as many Valley resorts, restaurants, taverns, shops and modes of transportation," said Ward. "This encouraging economic boon was felt across the board, all the way to those who rely on tips from restaurants, taverns and cabs. It was money right into their pockets!"

Barometer

The comprehensive study is a barometer and blueprint for future Super Bowls -- particularly the untapped potential for downtown Phoenix and Glendale to participate in greater ways in the largesse from Super Bowl week parties and events, which tended to focus more on Scottsdale. To mix sports metaphors, the lesson of any Super Bowl Week when it comes to promoting events continues to be: if you build it, they will come.

And fans are likely to come again in droves. "The study shows that Super Bowl XLII was a confidence builder for future games, and one that sowed fertile seeds here for further economic growth," said Artigue. "We're now in the Super Bowl queue, and we are privileged to be part of this lineup."

"No doubt, huge potential awaits us," said Mokwa. "But if a business is not prepared to take active, appropriately aggressive marketing and branding steps, and do it thoughtfully, one can get lost in the Big Event shuffle and misinterpret what the market has for you. Like the athletes themselves, we all need to be seasoned and prepared for the next opportunity."

The next opportunity may come knocking soon. Sullivan spoke to Knowledge@W. P. Carey from a hotel lobby in Manhattan, just moments before a meeting with NFL staff to pitch a 2012 Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. The NFL will vote on the venue at a May 21 meeting in Atlanta. Top ranking competitors include Indianapolis and Houston. "I know we're going to get another Super Bowl; it's just a matter of time," said Sullivan. "If it's not 2012, we'll be back here for 2013, and if we don't get that, we'll be back here for 2014. We built University of Phoenix Stadium for mega sporting events, and we will pursue them."

So are you ready for some football?

Bottom Line:

  • Super Bowl festivities generated a record $500.6 million in direct and indirect spending by visiting fans and organizations, according to the newly released Super Bowl impact study produced by the W. P. Carey MBA Sports Business program.
  • The gross impact of a half billion dollars in the Arizona marketplace brings rejuvenation to an economy that has been weakened by a recession.
  • The ripple effect of return visits, family and company relocations, and word-of-mouth marketing nationally could equal or exceed the record Super Bowl spending in years to come.
  • Arizona representatives are now pitching the NFL on a 2012 Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium.