Pro football tackles the event hospitality business

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - The National Football League (NFL) is tackling the event hospitality business for its top properties, including the Super Bowl, as a way to boost business and bring it closer to its corporate and individual fans.

NFL on Location, which was started just prior to the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit, offers companies and consumers packages that include tickets, merchandise, food, parking and other experiences for its top properties.

While it had offered such deals on a more limited basis for its annual Pro Bowl all-star game in Hawaii for several years, the 2006 Super Bowl marked the start of a new focus on the business, which now includes an annual game in London and the college player draft, said Dave Wintergrass, senior director of events for the NFL.

"There was a demand there for it," he said in a telephone interview. "There were packages to Super Bowls and Pro Bowls out there that were not from the NFL and it looked like obviously a business opportunity for us and a service to our fans, another way to engage our corporate partners and fans."

While the NFL, with $9 billion in annual revenue, does not break out the sales for the business, Wintergrass said it has steadily grown and the NFL is eyeing further expansion.

The 5,000 packages for this year's Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas, between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers sold out on January 17, the fastest sellout since the U.S. sports league started with 1,200 packages in 2006, he said.

Prices vary with the top-tier package, including player appearances, food and beverages, a Super Bowl gift bag, express entry, preferred parking and postgame field access, ranging from $3,900 to $9,700 depending on whether a four-night stay in a hotel is necessary.

Two other types of packages then scale down to prices as low as $2,400. Parking fees are not included.

With tickets for the Super Bowl selling for thousands of dollars on the secondary market, the NFL's packages are attractive to companies and individuals.

Corporate customers make up between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the clients for the Super Bowl, while the reverse is true for the other properties, Wintergrass said.

The NFL, which uses outside partners to sell the packages, likes the program so much that it is considering expansion to the rest of the playoffs, as well as creating events like golf tournaments or motivational seminars, he said. "You name it. It's limited to our own creativity."

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)