There’s the game inside the stadium and the bigger one outside — and there’s out-of-bounds lines around both.
Before the Super Bowl, the game’s official sponsors and hundreds of local businesses and organizations are vying for the attention of spectators who will flock to the numerous events surrounding the Big Game. But companies must follow NFL rules.
The league, helped by local governments, asserts authority to approve marketing activities within “clean zones,” or “designated large event zones,” that take up all of downtown Minneapolis, a portion of downtown St. Paul and the entire Mall of America in Bloomington.
Still, marketers expect Super Bowl advertisers to be creative and others to stage impromptu stunts for a bit of the spotlight.
“People are going to try whatever they can try to break through,” said Jeremy Mullman, senior vice president of media engagement at Minneapolis-based public relations firm Olson Engage. “It’s the ultimate sort of prize of marketing. … It tends to bring out some of the most creative and scrappy in the industry.”
Twin Cities marketing agencies are no strangers to the Super Bowl. They have helped create multimillion-dollar, national commercials that run during the game as well as manned the social media accounts for companies trying to capitalize on Super Bowl fever. With the game in Minneapolis for the first time in 26 years, local agencies are working with a wide array of big-name brands as well as local companies taking part in the Super Bowl for the first time.
The wild card for all of them is Minnesota’s weather.
“There’s going to be a lot at play particularly on Nicollet and the stadium and everything in between … It’s going to be highly dependent on the weather,” said Liz Ross, chief executive of Minneapolis advertising agency Periscope.
Many companies will use street teams of brand ambassadors to attract fans, but their effectiveness will depend on whether it’s warm enough for people to linger outside comfortably, Ross said.
Periscope will turn its office — which is on Washington Avenue, a stone’s throw from U.S. Bank Stadium — into a Valentine’s Day pop-up shop for Hallmark. Super Bowl attendees will be able to send free cards to loved ones and enjoy hot chocolate.
Local organizers embraced the cold weather by wrapping Super Bowl LII in a campaign called “Bold North.” The game is usually played in a warm-weather city.
“This is such a different place I think than Super Bowls have been in the past and probably even a very different place than it was when it was here last time by leaps and bounds ... I think everyone is going to really lean into the experience of being here and what’s unique,” said Marty Senn, chief creative officer at Minneapolis ad firm Carmichael Lynch.
Carmichael Lynch is involved with several Super Bowl marketing campaigns, including the installation of the Birkebeiner Bridge on Nicollet Mall, the Great Northern Festival, which will be taking place simultaneously with the Super Bowl festivities, as well as commercials for Jack Link’s and U.S. Bank.
“From an agency and talent perspective, it’s really nice to be able to show off the city and what’s unique about it,” Senn said.
Marshall-based Schwan’s Co. built a 40-foot tower that resembles its distinctive food-delivery trucks as part of the fan activities of Super Bowl Live. Located at 8th Street and Nicollet Mall, the truck tower has a stage for an ongoing trivia game. The company is also preparing samples of its food at a nearby kitchen. Executives decided in mid-2016 to use the Super Bowl week as a chance to “reintroduce” the brand at a time when consumers are being deluged with advertising from well-heeled Silicon Valley-backed ventures in food delivery.
“Over the last year, in collaboration with our 65th anniversary, we have rebranded Schwan’s. We have a new logo and we have new packaging,” said Kelly Hilgert Spronk, director of marketing for Schwan’s. “This is the end of a lot of those efforts coming together.”
A few blocks away, Explore Minnesota Tourism has an interactive gallery pop-up (called ‘Sota Pop) that will let visitors walk through various Minnesota scenes. “It’s going to be vibrant and cool,” said Mike Caguin, chief creative officer at Colle McVoy.
Elevate Minnesota, a coalition of local labor unions that represent construction workers, built a roving warming house that is traveling from the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships at Lake Nokomis to the St. Paul Winter Carnival this week.
“The men and women that we represent built the stadium. … We are all very proud of that and thought it was a good opportunity to highlight the impact that the men and women in the trades have in our community,” said Jason George, board chair of Elevate Minnesota, which is also running a regional commercial during the game and giving away Super Bowl tickets.
The challenge for businesses that to want to capitalize on the Super Bowl is the tight control the NFL imposes on activities near the game. In bid specifications for host cities to help “preserve a world-class event environment and to protect the rights of the National Football League,” the NFL requires “clean zones” that it says “are an important tool in protecting the public health, safety and welfare during major public events.”
In November, the Minneapolis City Council approved what it called a “designated large event zone” that runs from the Mississippi River to Interstate 94 and stretches as far north as Plymouth Avenue and as far west as Lyndale Avenue, taking up all of downtown and then some.
The city did something similar for Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game when it was played in 2014.
The zone, which will be in effect from Jan. 26 through Feb. 5, is supposed to “ensure that the focus of the event remains on the safety and enjoyment of the Super Bowl LII game by the fans, athletes, coaches and the public and to prevent illegal marketing and other unpermitted commercial activities,” according to the city’s analysis of the ordinance.
“We had talked about creating experiences or using street teams closer to U.S. Bank Stadium and we found out quickly that there is that zone where you can’t do anything unless you’ve basically paid to play,” Caguin said. “It’s basically the NFL and Super Bowl protecting those who’ve invested a significant amount to be within that proximity.”
A Minneapolis spokesman said the brands that want to be permitted don’t have to be official sponsors of the host committee or the NFL to get approval. City staff will be monitoring marketing events throughout this week.
St. Paul approved a similar ordinance last month to regulate temporary commercial activities around the Xcel Energy Center, which will be the site of Super Bowl Opening Night, a televised event with players and coaches.
Last week, the Bloomington City Council approved a “clean zone” around the Mall of America, site of the Super Bowl media center. Bloomington license examiner Doug Junker said the approval wasn’t necessary because the mall already owns most of the land and would need to give approval anyway for any marketing on its property.
“The zone was pretty clean to begin with,” he said.
Mullman said some advertisers try to find loopholes in the rules to get closer to the crowd.
“We work with some of them,” he said. “You will always see those efforts. Definitely with smaller brands, you have some folks who maybe feel like it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission who are going to take their best shot.”