What Ideas Can Your Meeting Steal From the Super Bowl?

Your association’s meeting may not attract 100 million attendees, but you can still add some smaller-scale, Super Bowl-style fanfare to your conferences.

Are you ready for some football? I hope so, because Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX is one of the largest and priciest events to happen all year, whether you’re talking audience, sponsorships, ticket prices, or food and beverage.

Why not take a cue from the much-hyped Super Bowl Halftime Show and offer some sort of fun and exciting event somewhere in the middle of your meeting?

For instance, some are predicting it will be the most-watched TV broadcast ever, which means it would exceed last year’s record-breaking 111.5 million viewers. A 30-second commercial is estimated to cost somewhere around $4.5 million. And Americans will eat more than 1.23 billion chicken wings over the weekend and drink at least 50 million cases of beer the day of the game.

Let’s be honest, those are numbers that no association meeting or conference will ever have to deal with, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to be learned from what happens both during the game and in the events leading up to it. Here are three ways I think associations can inject some Super Bowl-worthy fanfare into their meetings on a smaller scale:

Put your spin on media day. The Tuesday prior to Sunday’s big game is Super Bowl Media Day, which gives thousands of reporters access to players and coaches. Questions range from serious ones about game strategy and thoughts on opposing players to milder fare—like when Patriots player Jerod Mayo’s daughter asked head coach Bill Belichick what stuffed animals he liked. (His response: “I like a little puppet that you can put your fingers in. A little monkey.”)

What if your association did its own version of media day? You could put your CEO and other senior staffers or board members at tables in a conference room and give attendees free access to them to ask questions. I’m sure the questions would range from where the association is going in the next five years, to how board members balance their volunteer time with their professional and personal time, to who your CEO’s favorite musician is. But, no matter the question or answer, these interactions would allow your attendees to gain personal knowledge about your staff and volunteer leaders and feel closer to your organization. In other words, the event would humanize those big-name individuals who many members may have always thought of as off-limits.

Offer commercial space. Buying a 30-second ad spot is not a cheap endeavor, but for many Super Bowl viewers, the commercials are the main reason they watch. And this year, as in previous ones, many companies are capitalizing on that viewer interest by pre-releasing their commercials or offering shortened versions to get people pumped up to watch. (If you want to go in knowing nothing, don’t click the previous link.)

Could your association do something with commercials at its events? You might post a meetings trailer on your website to get potential attendees excited about what to expect. Could you offer sponsors the chance to present 30-second commercials before or during a general session? Of course, you’d want them to be entertaining and not just straight selling, but this could be a different way to allow your sponsors to talk about what they do and entertain attendees at the same time.

Host a halftime performance. Many association meetings have well-known speakers—whether from inside or outside their industry—open and close their events. But why not take a cue from the much-hyped Super Bowl Halftime Show and offer some sort of fun and exciting event somewhere in the middle of your meeting? Not only would it allow attendees to celebrate what they learned already, but it would also give them a chance to let loose and relax before the learning and networking push that happens at the end.

For example, at the 2015 Michigan Turfgrass Conference [PDF], which took place last week at Michigan State University, the group held a halftime show on the exhibit hall floor to close out the second day of its meeting. While the industry is an ideal fit for such an event, there’s nothing stopping your organization from doing something similar.

Come Sunday, I can say with 100 percent certainty I will be one of the 110 million-plus watching the Super Bowl and will be just as likely enjoying a beer—or two. But I’m definitely in it more for the commercials than the game this year.

As a born and raised New York Giants fan, I will end this post with one more interesting fact: The last time the Super Bowl was played at the University of Phoenix Stadium was in 2008, when the Giants beat the Patriots, ending the Pats perfect season. (Oh right, that was before the Giants beat them again in 2012.)

All teasing aside, what lessons or ideas has your association taken from large-scale events like the Super Bowl? Let me know in the comments.

During his Super Bowl Media Day presser, Bill Belichick answered at least one cute question from a child. (Jonathan Satriale/Flickr)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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