Super Bowl’s return to L.A. will showcase stars, and could be an industry coming-out party

By Terry Lefton and Ben Fischer
The glitz and glamour of Los Angeles will be on display at Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium even as questions remain about industry activation and some expect corporate travel to still be constricted in February.getty images

About 11 weeks out, you could call Super Bowl hospitality and ticket demand a classic yin and yang.


On one side are the corporate buyers, ever cautious, seeking surety that the usual week of business, hospitality and football will be unimpeded by any health concerns. On the other is an unqualified expectation from L.A.’s celebrity culture that they’ll be part of the blockbuster at SoFi Stadium, back in Los Angeles for the first time in 29 years, and fueled by their willingness to pay unprecedented prices to say, “I was there.”

The sports industry sees the Super Bowl LVI as the definitive certification of (post?) pandemic recovery.

“Much as we’ve been emerging for a while, there’s a widespread feeling that L.A. will be the industry coming-out party, especially on the brand side,” said Ed Horne, president of Endeavor’s 160over90 marketing agency.

Even so, there’s a COVID factor still impeding corporate sales and enthusiasm for Big Game corporate hospitality. “Our brand-side clients are just getting back to their offices for the first time,” said Lou Kovacs, Octagon president of marketing and events North America. That’s slowed hospitality and experiential marketing efforts, both of which have taken big pandemic hits.

“Most brands, I don’t think, are ready yet to interact with consumers in a one-on-one fashion at a big event,” Kovacs
added. “But we’re expecting that to return to pre-pandemic levels this year.”

Patrick Ryan, co-founder of ticketing advisory firm Eventellect, said that while corporate ticketing is weaker than hoped, it will be more than counterbalanced by high-earning L.A. celebrities, all expecting to attend the game as an entitlement.

“Corporate travel is still going to be slow, but it pales in comparison to the sheer volume of celebrities and important people in L.A. who want to go,” Ryan said. “L.A. is the largest concentration of celebrities, the largest concentration of people who are used to getting shit handed to them. The CAAs, the UTAs, the WMEs of the world; they’re already spending a lot of money securing suite inventory.”

If there’s a trend on the corporate side, it fits in the “less is more” bucket. “We’re seeing demand for smaller events as travel returns,” said Todd Fischer, GMR senior vice president. “We’ve also still got clients working through corporate-travel restrictions.”

So, in some cases, there’s a bit of a corporate waiting game, even with non-corporate types spending and driving the market to new highs.

“The environment has a lot of marketers and brands trying to strike that balance of what to do in L.A., while waiting to ensure that events and marketing will be safe and have a green light,” said Scott Floyd, executive vice president of collaboration for Acceleration, with Super Bowl clients including Pepsi. “L.A. is big enough that clients can afford to jump in later than normal.”

Companies mounting Super Bowl efforts after a year on the sidelines are adjusting. “For our larger events, we’re adding $70,000 to $90,000 just for COVID protocols,” said Jeffrey Best, whose L.A.-based Best Events has been staging Super Bowl events for decades. “I’ve heard no pushback.”

Ticket demand and pricing is unprecedented, and it will continue that way — even if corporate buyers, who are somewhere between skittish and mixed, all bail out. Ryan said he’s seen secondary marketplace Vivid Seats hosting blocks of upper-bowl seats at about $7,500 per ticket. If that holds, it would be several thousand dollars higher than the cheapest tickets at the 2020 Super Bowl in Miami, and more than double the “get-in” price at Atlanta’s 2019 Super Bowl.

Last week, the cheapest ticket on SeatGeek, in the far reaches of the 500 level was $8,718, including fees. The highest listed price by On Location, the NFL spinoff now in its first full non-pandemic Super Bowl cycle since being acquired by Endeavor in early 2020, was $17,425 per person, a package that includes access to a multilevel, indoor Club 67 space inside the SoFi Stadium perimeter.

Quint Events President Brian Ruede said his Super Bowl ticket/hospitality packages are up as much as 70% from prior years. “If there’s any [COVID-related] hesitancy remaining, I’d say the increased demand is outstripping that,” he said.

Hollywood Park, the 298-acre development surrounding SoFi Stadium, provides the NFL with a rare opportunity to centralize Super Bowl week activities at the game site. NFL Honors is set for the YouTube Theater adjacent to the stadium. Otherwise, downtown Los Angeles will be the centerpiece of Super Bowl week programming. NFL’s headquarters will be the JW Marriott L.A. Live, with the NFL Experience and Media Center at the convention center.

However, L.A.’s famously decentralized geography will be unavoidable. The commissioner’s party is at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Beverly Hills; game rights holder NBC will have activities in Santa Monica and at Universal Studios; and most expect some meetings near the beaches, which can be at least an hour from downtown.

Private aviation is always a leading barometer of corporate interest for any big event. Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter said he’s anticipating a big Super Bowl, with his company planning the same level of client hospitality as pre-COVID, including its usual 2,000-person Saturday tailgate party.

Doug Gollan, founder/editor of Private Jet Card Comparisons, said this Super Bowl will be the biggest ever for private air, eclipsing the 2,000 private flights servicing the 2020 game in Miami.

Those staging Super Bowl week events have some universal business concerns: employment and supply chain. “Temporary staffing needs will be intense at a time when everyone’s having problem finding employees,” said Steve Dupee, CEO of L.A. experiential marketing agency BeCore. Added to those worries, concerns about transportation for the area’s capacious footprint.

Over the next month and a half, it will be an intriguing stew of consumer and industry demand for L.A. Super Bowl assets. COVID aside, or perhaps because of it, both official and unofficial sellers are confident of establishing revenue records.

As Elizabeth Lindsey, Wasserman president of properties and brands, summarized: “Demand is there. Our hospitality team will be the busiest they’ve ever been. The brands we’re talking to all realize the potential and opportunity of a Los Angeles Super Bowl, especially after a hiatus.”

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