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Super Bowl Forecast: Many Changes, Still the Same Experience

4 Jan, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

What’s the forecast for the Super Bowl? Well, there’s a 100 percent chance of at least 20 percent of spectators, according to the NFL.

The game, which this year comes to Tampa, includes several other modifications – and a few things that remain the same. Here they are:

Spectator Numbers: The 20 percent figure (it comes out to about 13,000 fans in a stadium that seats 66,000) was released in November, before the vaccine became available. There has been no further word from the NFL if this number will change in light of that development.

The Super Bowl Experience: The annual carnival-like festival that accompanies the Super Bowl, will be free and totally outdoors for the first time in its history, according to News 10 Tampa Bay. The event will include live concerts as well as athletic activities like interactive games and a 40-yard dash contest. There will be player autographs, NFL merchandise shopping and various food/beverage concessions, as well.

“The NFL and the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee recently detailed the hours of operation for each park and briefed the media on how guests will participate under COVID-19 health protocols,” the news station noted. “Much like a day at Walt Disney World, guests will be required to wear a face mask at all times -- except when actively eating or drinking.”

Contactless Transactions: It is requested that fans download the NFL OnePass app or register at the OnePass website to access the Super Bowl Experience -- the event is free, but there is required registration. In addition to agreeing to mask rules, the committee says fans will sign an acknowledgment about their current health status during the OnePass sign-up process.

No Cash Allowed: According to the International Business Times, the idea of a cash-free experience with the Super Bowl itself was actually being discussed before COVID: “When it comes to making purchases, customers won’t be able to use cash during the big game following the league’s latest agreement with Visa. Only contactless payments will be accepted at Super Bowl LV. The decision was being discussed before the pandemic and it’s now part of a deal that will run through the 2025 NFL season.”

Yeah, and Visa couldn’t be happier about the arrangement.

“A cash-free Super Bowl was the main goal of our new contract,” Mary Ann Reilly, Visa’s senior vice president of its North America marketing division, told CNBC. “The plan was to get to a cash-free Super Bowl within five years, and we’re doing it in less than two years.”

Fans can also use a “reverse ATM” at the Super Bowl; it exchanges cash for a gift card that can be used for purchases throughout the day.

Nix on Mixing: The Tampa Bay Times noted that as in years past, there will be a celebrity flag football party with the likes of Michael Irvin, Doug Flutie and Donovan McNabb on the sand near Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60. The game will air on ESPN platforms the day before Super Bowl 55 in Tampa. Fans will be able to watch for free; however, they will have to stay outside a fence, a “beach bubble,” as the event planner terms it, so that nobody comes into contact with the stars, who will have been tested and contact-traced for COVID-19.

“We knew Super Bowl week would be different,” Lisa Levine (the president and CEO of Celebrity Sweat, which has brought the charity game to each of the last 20 Super Bowls) told Times reporters. “We have a lot of sponsors that are NFL sponsors that are all just very sensitive and pulling back completely. But our thought was, even if we couldn’t have the regular meet-and-greets that we would have, even if we couldn’t have the regular seating as close to the players as possible, that’s fine. They would still be able to enjoy the excitement.”

Not as Many Indoor Venues Will be Booked: In November, the Tampa Bay Times also quoted Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, who noted that the Super Bowl Host Committee has a venue allocation program that helps play matchmaker between the NFL, its partners and local venues. In a normal year, Higgins said, more venues would be booked.

“That being said, we’re definitely still continuing to see interest in local event venues for potential events,” he said. “Most event organizers are naturally taking a very measured approach to determine what events will be safely possible to be hosted in three months, considering the current circumstances.”

But some things won’t change. This is, after all, the Super Bowl:

It’s Still Going to Take a Lot of Personnel: Hiring is now on for more than 500 positions, according to ABC Action News. In fact, the career fair in mid-December was one of the first in-person events put on by Career Source, which noted it was hiring for employers in hospitality, retail & tourism, food and beverages, janitorial services and transportation.

Businesses Know They Will Definitely See an Uptick: Bay News 9 in Tampa quoted Santiago Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

"Most of our businesses are optimistic that they're going to see some economic impact come super bowl week," Corrada told the station.

The Commercials are Still Expensive: ViacomCBS is reportedly asking $5.5M for 30-second ads during the 2021 Super Bowl, says The Sports Geek. Among the sponsors reportedly back are Pringles. Pepsi, Toyota, TurboTax and General Motors, according to AdAge. (One company that is skipping the Super Bowl this year is Avocados from Mexico, which has been a sponsor since 2015).

Party Prognostications: There have not yet been any predictions as to the numbers of parties held this year but you can bet, with more people watching from home, the purchase and consumption of food and alcohol will still be strong.

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