Brand-building is the name of the game when the Super Bowl is in your town, and several of the Twin Cities' largest companies are taking that to heart.
Polaris, for example, is hosting the Upside Downtown snowmobile stunt show featuring X Games winner Levi LaVallee the day before the Super Bowl along Nicollet Mall, stage central for activities during the week. The Medina-based outdoor-sports vehicle maker also is transporting people to and from a zip line across the Mississippi River.
Other powerhouses, such as 3M, are working in the background, providing materials necessary to put on an event the magnitude of the National Football League championship. While 3M will have its name on a warming tent along Nicollet Mall, it also produced the reflective lanyards and hat logos for the 10,000 Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee volunteers who will greet and help visitors. The Maplewood-based company also made the light-enhancing optical films that protect sensors aboard autonomous buses being tested that week on Nicollet Mall by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
More than 25 Minnesota companies from Hormel Foods and Ecolab to Target, Best Buy and Thor Construction have helped fund the host committee's activities. They also are having events for their clients and employees to further boost Minnesota's profile.
Here's a sampling of how the companies are pumping their name recognition:
• Target, which designed the volunteers' uniforms, has its headquarters right in the heart of Super Bowl Live activities on Nicollet Mall. For the first time, the company is opening its Target Plaza Commons to the public, renaming it Bullseye Lodge for the festivities. Featuring a North Woods theme, the space will have complimentary hot chocolate, photo opportunities such as on a snow swing, the chance to print a photo on a marshmallow and activities such as jumbo bubble hockey or curling.
• The Super Bowl is being broadcast on NBC, so Bayport-based Andersen Corp. worked with local affiliate KARE 11, Studio BV and Gardner Builders to build a warming house and broadcast studio on Nicollet and 7th Street. The structure can hold 40 people and features a fireplace. Besides live broadcasts by both KARE 11 and national NBC broadcasters, a number of NFL stars will conduct meet-and-greets there.
"There is a lot of pride everyone has in this," said Studio BV CEO Betsy Vohs. "It's been quite a fun journey."
• Land O'Lakes is hosting (what else?) a "Farm Bowl" on Feb. 1, where current and Hall of Fame football stars including the Vikings' Kyle Rudolph and Steelers' Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis will test their skill and agility on farm-inspired tests at the University of Minnesota's 3M Arena at Mariucci. They will be competing against superstar farmers.
• Caribou Coffee has roasted up a special blend of "Bold North" coffee. The blend has been available in Caribou stores and in the U.S. Bank Stadium for weeks.
• Sleep Number, which recently moved its headquarters to downtown Minneapolis, will host a multiplayer virtual reality experience during Super Bowl Live. Eight fans at a time will throw footballs through "targets," first as a well-rested football player and then as one sleep-deprived. The company also is one of the lead sponsors of the media party at Mall of America's Nickelodeon Universe.
• Minneapolis-based Thor Construction will host a reception for its employees this week after a big push to carry out six contracts for the Super Bowl.
For one, the company relocated the American International Birkebeiner Bridge from Hayward, Wis. — where the nearly 200-foot structure is the centerpiece of North America's largest cross-country ski race — to Nicollet and 8th Street.
The company also hauled 100 truckloads of furniture and equipment out of U.S. Bank Stadium to make way for NFL equipment and supplies, and it built the Club Purple lounge inside the stadium and miles of concrete security barricades around it.
"It's our largest, most intense undertaking of anything that we have ever done in such a short time period," said Thor founder and Chairman Richard Copeland.
• Ecolab is sponsoring the chefs at the annual "Taste of the NFL" event to raise money to fight hunger. The Feb. 3 event at RiverCentre in St. Paul is expected to attract 2,500 people paying $700 a ticket. Ecolab, based in St. Paul, also is donating the culinary equipment, detergents and hand-sanitizing stations.
The company carried the theme of "good eating" into employee activities by sponsoring a recipe contest. Sodexo and Aramark cooked up contestants' recipes last week for all to taste at its headquarters and R&D center.
Employees will pick the best from entries such as the Minnesota purple burger and walleye lefse tacos. The prize for the first-place winner, to be announced this week: two tickets to the Super Bowl.