My city hosts Super Bowl XLIX today. From star-studded private parties to the social media protests of #LaserTwitter, here’s what it feels like from the inside-out.

1 Feb

IMG_20150127_210231We are about six hours from the start of the single largest sporting event in the United States, as I type this. This year’s Super Bowl XLIX takes place in Glendale, Arizona, at University of Phoenix Stadium, which is about a 20-minute drive from my house near north Scottsdale.

The past week has seen an influx of hundreds of thousands of out-of-towners into Metro Phoenix, who are here for the Big Game and the countless big parties that come with it. Downtown Phoenix has been one big traffic jam – as the site of Super Bowl Central and the Bud Light House of Whatever, our urban core has been transformed into a giant playground of hype and unconscious consumerism, filled with massive roman numerals that double as digital displays of Grand Canyon panoramics, a building-size football sculpture, half a dozen stages filled with musical acts of every ilk, beer gardens galore (excuse me, BUD LIGHT beer gardens glore), and skyscrapers draped in banners trumpeting the Pepsi halftime show. Scottsdale is the current headquarters of ESPN, and party central as usual, with a glut of star-studded events going on all weekend, from lingerie bowls hosted by Victoria’s Secret supermodels to private parties with red carpets trampled by everybody from Man vs. Food star Adam Richman to actress Alyssa Milano. Glendale, which is typically a borderline-bankrupt ghost town every other week of the year, has even seen some Super Bowl action around the stadium, with body-painted Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots fans milling around the stadium-adjacent big-box bars. It’s estimated Arizona will make more than $500 million from hosting the Super Bowl this year, though the mayor of Glendale has said the city expects to lose about $2 million on the event (more on the saga of how sports are killing Glendale here.)

football manI’ll be honest: I’ve never been a big fan of football. I couldn’t care less who wins the game today. My interest in massive sporting events like the Super Bowl lies in all the peripheral activity, particularly the music and food at Super Bowl parties. Typically, as a member of the media, I have enjoyed access to private Super Bowl parties and exclusive events. When Super Bowl XLII was here in 2008, I spent the weekend going to hip-hop shows (Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Ludacris) and working the red carpet as a parade of notable folks went by (Danica Patrick, Nick Lachey, Shawn Marion). This year, I had arranged access to a variety of bashes, including the host committee’s media party on Tuesday, a private party with The Roots on Friday, and the Bud Light House of Whatever with DJ Steve Aoki on Saturday. I managed to make the media party on Tuesday, but Thursday morning, I started exhibiting symptoms of a nasty flu strain, and have been confined to my home recovering since Thursday afternoon. In lieu of attending parties, I’ve been looking at everyone else’s photos and reading various stories about the Super Bowl.

Like this one, detailing the millions in tax rebates the NFL will receive for Super Bowl tickets this year. The rebates are reportedly part of the many, many ways a host city tries to sweeten the deal when luring a Super Bowl. And if the NFL fining its players for wearing a non-sponsor brand of headphones didn’t give you an idea of how possessive the league is over its brand and its sponsor brands, then consider the myriad requests a host city must grant. Bud Light is an official sponsor of the NFL. No other beer brand banners or signage are allowed in Super Bowl Central. Media partners were asked to not feature Arizona craft beer over Budweiser in their coverage. One of the many “requests” the NFL made to Minneapolis (host city in 2018): “Removal of ATMs that conflict with ‘NFL preferred payment services.’” Check out former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura’s ire-filled indictment (and laundry list of NFL requests) in the video below.

In addition to the “NFL-preferred” requests, the part of the video that struck me the most was that the NFL is a nonprofit organization – that makes about $9 billion a year. Again, I’m not a football fan, but I wonder how much philanthropy the NFL really does? Seems to me it’s the individual players and their charity organizations that are making the differences in communities, not the league’s corporate office. At any rate, there’s no question all kinds of profits are being made across the board and for sponsor partners/brands.

A lot of people, including Jesse Ventura, are angrier about this than me. For me, the most fascinating aspect of being an online spectator to Super Bowl Central has been #LaserTwitter, a completely unauthorized and unbridled – and completely unreported in media – social media project from a local entity that calls itself “ONOMOLY.” Basically, they’ve had a massive banner 50-feet in the air on the roof of an empty downtown warehouse, and have been projecting Twitter updates with the hashtag #lasertwitter in real-time throughout the weekend festivities. These messages are supposed to be subversive, pro-prositivity and anti-“The Man” in nature, and are large and bright enough that at some point on Friday night, Bud Light representatives asked police to visit the LaserTwitter building and ask ONOMOLY team members to stop projecting onto the side of the Hotel Palomar/Bud Light Hotel. I’ll be aggregating some of the more interesting/eloquent/passionate/hilarious #lasertwitter messages for a blog tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a video showing what #lasertwitter looks like:

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3 Responses to “My city hosts Super Bowl XLIX today. From star-studded private parties to the social media protests of #LaserTwitter, here’s what it feels like from the inside-out.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Top 12 Tweets #LaserTwitter Imposed on Brandville During Super Bowl Week | The Phoenix Edge - February 2, 2015

    […] mentioned in yesterday’s blog, a subversive, Phoenix-based group called ONOMOLY took over some headspace in Downtown Phoenix the […]

  2. ONOMOLY shines a light on the NFL and mocks Bud Light with Laser Twitter » Laser Twitter - Interactive Laser Billboard - February 6, 2015

    […] The Phoenix EDGE […]

  3. Laser Twitter: Media of the people, for the people, by the people. | The Phoenix Edge - February 6, 2015

    […] “My city hosts Super Bowl XLIX today. From star-studded private parties to the social media pr… […]

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