Super Bowl superlatives may sound like hype. But the Big Game, which will be played in Minneapolis in February 2018, is just that, at least in terms of TV viewers and social media usage. The question isn’t if Super Bowl LII will be the most-watched event of the year, but ever. And with big sports and award telecasts spiking social media usage, it may generate the most posts and tweets, too.
While most of the focus will be on the game and the game within the game — Super Bowl commercials — the site will be spotlighted, too. Scores of reporters will file stories on the Twin Cities, which has a lower national profile than most similarly sized metro areas.
“The Super Bowl is a huge opportunity and platform,” said Christine Fruechte, CEO of Colle+McVoy, a Minneapolis-based advertising agency. And not just for marketers — for Minnesota, too. “It’s a pinnacle moment to either define what the Twin Cities is, and/or to dispel myths.”
The definition and the myth is one and the same for some — the weather. This is especially true for many national observers, and even some locals who are still chilled after the polar vortex of 2014. The pitch committee recognized this, addressed it head on — and won.
So it’s likely that during Super Bowl week there will be a winter activity blitz (a blizzard can’t be ruled out, either). If coordinated, quintessentially winter events like the City of Lakes Loppet ski festival and the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis, as well as the Winter Carnival and even an ice castle in St. Paul can become international images of how to thrive, not just survive, a Minnesota winter.
It’s a smart approach. Authenticity matters in marketing, and more than any metro region in America, it seems that the Twin Cities concurrently endures and enjoys winter.
But branding the Twin Cities shouldn’t begin and end with winter, cautioned Michael Hart, co-founder of mono, an ad agency housed in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood.
“I think Minneapolis is a bigger brand than winter,” Hart said. “From a branding standpoint, to focus in on a weather-centric part of what defines us and makes us Minneapolis, I think is a missed opportunity. I’d rather people be left thinking, ‘I had no idea how great the arts community is.’ ”
Artistic vitality is just one of the many amenities that deeply impressed John Partilla when he moved from New York to be CEO of Olson, an ad agency based in Minneapolis.
“People don’t have broad awareness of what makes this area so uniquely distinctive,” Partilla said. “Coming from New York, I was incredibly impressed.”
Many members of the media hail from New York City, too. Their voices — already influential — will be amplified further, Fruechte said, by social media, which didn’t exist in 1992, the last time the Super Bowl was played in Minneapolis.
Another factor Fruechte cited came from research Colle+McVoy conducted for Explore Minnesota Tourism. Much of Minnesota’s image was “based in entertainment and media: flyover country, the ‘coldest place on earth’ and ‘Fargo,’ ” she said.
When asked what word would best define the reality, Partilla and Hart independently identified “progressiveness.”
“It’s a word that captures the heart of where this state is and where it is heading,” Partilla said. While some may overly associate “progressive” as a political term, Partilla seemed to mean it more broadly.
“People who are progressive are continually advancing on many fronts,” he said, citing economic, artistic, social, educational, humanitarian and infrastructure fronts as examples.
Said Hart: “I would hope they perceive us as a progressive city — not necessarily liberal, but historically we’ve had some of the most progressive thinking.”
Partilla added: “The notion of progressiveness is what every city would like to be thought of.” Many cities, he said, “their history speaks to where they have been as opposed to where they are going.”
Minneapolis, all three believed, is going places. Like the new Vikings stadium, it’s still being built, but the civic, business, artistic, educational and social infrastructure is solid.
“Increasingly, it’s Minnesota’s moment because Minnesota has laid much of the hard foundational work that has created a very exciting path forward,” Partilla said.
To impress, that path will need to be cleared of snow, which will be just one of the fundamental details requiring logistical precision. What often impresses outsiders most about Minnesota is just how well things work. Combining that competence with confidence — but not overcompensating — will bring branding results from the Super Bowl.
John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. The Rash Report can be heard at 8:20 a.m. Fridays on WCCO Radio, 830-AM. On Twitter: @rashreport.