The BIG GAME in Las Vegas
President’s Club members attended the Chairman’s Luncheon recently as the Vegas Chamber’s Chairman Paul Anderson and President & CEO Mary Beth Sewald welcomed Super Bowl Host Committee Executive Director Sam Joffray, Ryan Erwin, Founder & President of Red Rock Strategic Partners, and Steve Hill, President & CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to discuss the Super Bowl in Las Vegas and how small businesses can participate.
The panel discussion included:
Mary Beth Sewald, President & CEO of the Vegas Chamber
Sam Joffray, Executive Director of the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee
Ryan Erwin, Founder & President of Red Rock Strategic Partners
Steve Hill, President & CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA)
Question to Steve Hill:
Mary Beth Sewald: Steve, you have been very involved in the evolution of Las Vegas’s sports economy from the very beginning. From chairing the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee where the recommendation was made to build Allegiant Stadium and then getting the legislation passed, to now hosting the Super Bowl, Formula 1, and NCAA Basketball. Talk about that evolution and how sports are now playing into our tourism strategy.
Steve Hill: Las Vegas has a great history with Boxing and UFC, and the Golden Knights started their efforts here. Bringing Allegiant Stadium to Las Vegas and bringing the NFL (Las Vegas Raiders) has changed things. It has elevated our brand. It continues to change and there’s so much momentum behind the sports efforts here. The attraction that Las Vegas is for leagues and for events, we are in the middle of that. It’s moving quickly and it has already changed Las Vegas forever.
Mary Beth Sewald: And I think it’s going to continue to change the face of our destination.
Question to Sam Joffray:
Mary Beth Sewald: Sam, you have worked on multiple Super Bowls. Some don’t realize that the Super Bowl Host Committee is separate from the NFL. When we talk about your role, you like to compare the Committee’s role to something like the International Olympic Committee. How are they similar? And what is the legacy of the Super Bowl that you have experienced in other cities, especially New Orleans?
Sam Joffray: We are the nonprofit that, after working closely with the LVCVA and the Raiders, put in the bid to get the Super Bowl hosted here. Once it's awarded, the first step that the NFL requires is to create a non-profit host committee that delivers on contracts and engagement. We are the boots-on-the-ground non-profit that is fulfilling all of those obligations to the NFL.
We’re trying to create multiple lanes of legacy for the Super Bowl in Las Vegas. Our first goal is to make sure that we come out of this one on Monday morning, and everybody on both sides of the equation from Las Vegas to the NFL are saying, “That was awesome, how fast can we get the Super Bowl to come back to Vegas?” We want to be hosting again, maybe every 4-5 years because we’re favored by media, sponsors and the fans. And then we start to develop some infrastructure that hopefully from Super Bowl to Super Bowl becomes a legacy for youth programming, for community engagement and for economic development impact.
Question to Ryan Erwin:
Mary Beth Sewald: Economic development and diversification are major initiatives here in Southern Nevada. Ryan, you have been tasked by Gov. Joe Lombardo to lead what is being called the “Corporate Combine” to utilize the Super Bowl as a driver of economic development. Would you share what the Corporate Combine is — and the strategy behind it?
Ryan Erwin: It starts with work legacy. We want to take the opportunity of having the eyes of the world on this very special place, Las Vegas. We want to use this event as a hook to showcase the wonderful things that your businesses have to offer. We want to create the blueprint that serves as a guideline for any major event for Las Vegas from Formula 1 to NBA, NHL, and hopefully Major League Baseball. Our entire goal is to pair the needs of these companies with the available resources this community has, so we can be in that permanent rotation of where the Super Bowl takes place — every 4 or 5 years. We want Las Vegas at the top. When businesses ask, “Where do I want to grow or expand my business?” We want Las Vegas to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue when answering.
Question to Steve Hill:
Mary Beth Sewald: Steve, it wasn’t too long ago that the NFL did not want to connect its brand to Las Vegas. And now with the Draft, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl, it seems the NFL is embracing Vegas to grow its audience even more. What made that relationship change, and how has that played a role in Las Vegas becoming the “Greatest Arena on Earth?”
Steve Hill: Twenty one years ago, we wanted to run the first What Happens Here, Stays Here ad during the super bowl. The NFL wouldn’t consider it. We were skeptical in 2015 about whether the NFL would allow a team to move here. A lot has changed. The state proving that regulated gambling was possible at a gold standard was key. We showed there was integrity and trustworthiness there.
There’s been a proliferation of gambling around the country. You can live anywhere within 50 miles of a place or get to some place where you can place a bet, so that's not something that is unique to Las Vegas anymore. Gambling is OK and it's a fan development tool much like fantasy football. These activities have raised the opportunity for Las Vegas and the NFL to unite.
Mary Beth Sewald: Southern Nevada has really become a fan development tool; the tide has turned.
Steve Hill: Right, and the partnership we have with the NFL is about as good as you can get. Sam Joffray is a big reason for that. We asked the NFL for help with the RFP process and answering each and every question (170-plus pages) the right way. We knew we needed a consultant, and they recommended Sam. We wanted this super bowl to be as cost effective and beneficial as possible to Las Vegas.
Sam Joffray: I think it took me about 45 seconds to pack my bags for Vegas. If there was any city I'd leave my hometown, New Orleans, to plan a super bowl for, it’s Las Vegas — especially the first one in Las Vegas. It’s going to be like the Marvel universe and DC universe colliding. It's going to be an epic moment.
Question to Sam Joffray:
Mary Beth Sewald: Sam, the number one question we get at the Vegas Chamber — and probably the question on everyone’s mind who is in this room — is how can my business get connected with the Super Bowl? Tell us about the NFL “Business Connect” program and how do our members get involved? And are there other ways local businesses can get involved?
Sam Joffray: Well, there are a number of different ways. Business Connect was the first one. It's an initiative we worked on for months. My team and our staff worked closely with the NFL Business Connect program to recruit local businesses, especially disadvantaged businesses, to connect them with the RFP process correctly with NFL partners and vendors and stakeholders.
That deadline has passed to apply for that, but we did exceed the expectations of the NFL in the number of applicants we had. I think we had over 800 people apply, over 200 right now have been certified, and they're continuing to go through that process of doing the applications and certifications. The host committee is also tracking tier two, tier three, and separate lists of anybody that has products and services that are valuable that might not fit into the NFL's Business Connect program. We're tracking right now 62 special events associated with the Super Bowl that are coming to Vegas. Every one of these events is looking for more hotel rooms, more space, more vendors. They're anticipating that we're going to exceed any other Super Bowl ever.
The host committee list for work management is another way, which is an opportunity to simply say, “I support the sports economy in Vegas, and I want to be a member of a business-to-business community that's supporting not just Super Bowl, but hopefully another one of those programs that, after Super Bowl is gone, can continue to go forward to help promote the sports economy through other events that are happening in the city.”
There are also volunteer opportunities. We've had over 15,000 people sign up for that entry. We need non-profit engagements. Some of our community affairs committees here today, we're engaging non-profits around the city that fulfill a lot of obligations that are for the benefit of Las Vegas, not the NFL.
Mary Beth Sewald: Sam, you mentioned the words, “after the Super Bowl is gone,” but you also talked about all the other ancillary opportunities that are surely to come up for the small business community here in Southern Nevada. Talk to us a little bit about how long you expect to see that financial and economic development happen between now and the next Super Bowl to follow, because surely there will be more.
Sam Joffray: Well, in an ideal world, an event like the Super Bowl happens, and then afterwards, the Nevada Business Connect program and those 200 + businesses have had an opportunity to bid on business for the Super Bowl, and they've been through the process, and they've learned more about what it takes to respond to an RFP or what their capacity is or how they may need to tweak their products and services. Because obviously not every one of those businesses is going to get a contract, but hopefully they're going to get education, contacts, and networking that will set them up for some of the other major great events that the LVCVA has been very successful in attracting.
Question to Ryan Erwin:
Mary Beth Sewald: Staying on the topic of economic impact. Ryan, you talked about the Corporate Combine earlier. How does Gov. Lombardo see the Super Bowl as a blueprint for using sporting events as a catalyst for economic growth? How do these events factor into the Governor’s vision for the state?
Ryan Erwin: We are interested in expanding. We want to find businesses that are looking for a friendly place to grow. People still in many ways view Las Vegas as a tourist destination first and foremost. And that's a great thing. It's a wonderful thing, but it also should be a destination for economic development, for growth. We have smart people. We have resources. We have opportunities. We have a community that's willing to open its arms to people. We really want to take this opportunity to directly and very specifically target executives and businesses, either here or elsewhere, that specifically want to grow in ways that create new, lasting economic development for the community.
Question to Steve Hill:
Mary Beth Sewald: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said: “They (Vegas) have done an extraordinary job at understanding how we want to present the NFL in that community, and more importantly, how to do it “Las Vegas-style.” How is “Las Vegas-style” transforming the rest of the sporting events world?
Steve Hill: It's an interesting concept, and I talk to people about us being a category of one, and we really are. Other folks are trying to integrate at some level what we do, but nobody can do what we do here in Las Vegas. I've said this a lot. There's going to be 65,000 VIPs here for the Super Bowl. We are the only city in the world that has the ability to even try and treat 65,000 people like VIPs all at the same time. If you have a Super Bowl someplace else, some of those VIPs have to stay 75 miles away from the game.
We don't have to do that here. And then on top of that, you've just got the energy and the excitement and the experience around whatever event it is. You don't spend all your time getting to the event, being home from the event, and taking up the entire day to do all these other activities. Everything that Las Vegas has to offer around that event makes the event more special.
Question to All:
Mary Beth Sewald: It looks like the things you would typically see at a Super Bowl event, you are looking to source them all locally. And that’s one of the issues the Vegas Chamber is working on. What can we learn from other cities? What are some success stories that you can share with us and ways for our local businesses to get involved?
Sam Joffray: I would proffer that what Vegas does on a day-to-day basis is amazing. How many other cities can we have had Taylor Swift and the NCAA Sweet 16 on the same night? I mean, that was incredible. The reason that can happen is because of the infrastructure here, the workforce here, the talent and skill here. And even though everybody might not get direct business from those NFL contracts, the number of third-party events and third-party providers that have an opportunity for a vendor to showcase their skills, showcase that they put out a great product; whether they do signage wraps or fence building or staging or lighting, they then become part of the circus. I'm part of that story. I got involved after working, cold calling the NFL, getting my foot in the door, and doing some work for them in 1997. And they said, “We want you to come back next year, we'll see you on the road.” So those opportunities are there for local businesses to shine as they engage with these NFL partners and sponsors.
Mary Beth Sewald: Ryan, do you have thoughts on that, from an economic development standpoint, things that you're aware of, ways that the small business community can get engaged?
Ryan Erwin: Well, I think that, to Sam's point, being proactive is an important part of this, right?
Look for opportunities that aren't necessarily specifically around three or four hours of the Super Bowl. We're going to have people here for the weekend. We're going to have people here for the week. There are opportunities to get them in a restaurant, to get them to a retail store, to get them to engage with your small business. You have to look at proactive ways to do this.
We're going to get better and better at this. We're talking about creating a blueprint, but every time we do this we get a little bit better. I would encourage all of you that have small businesses to think outside the box and creatively about how you can, not only be a part of this officially, but how you can grow your business unofficially around it.
Steve Hill: About a week ago, the Sports Business Journal, which is the bible for sports business across the country. And we weren't thrilled with this, but it's pretty great: The Sports Business Journal named Las Vegas the 7th best city in the country. We don't like being 7th, but it's a pretty good start for doing business in the sports environment in this city.
And so, from an economic development standpoint, it's not just the events, you put all of these events together, and it creates the opportunity for all kinds of off-shoot businesses around it, whether that's in health, in nutrition, in training, or everything that has to do with embedding all of the technology around the sports industry. I mean, you can just keep going. There are so many different potential sub-sectors of that, including putting on the events themselves, which is what Vegas is great at and has a huge industry around now. We want to continue to grow that. That's the benefit, ultimately, that the city gets from having all of these events in town. You put them all together, it creates critical mass to build businesses around. So, the sky's the limit.
Question to Ryan Erwin:
Mary Beth Sewald: Ryan, what are three main takeaways or calls to action that our audience needs to walk away with today?
Ryan Erwin: The first is to get even more involved. Thank you for your involvement already. Get more involved. The second is to talk this up. Make sure people know about this. Not just the Super Bowl, but all of the things around it. All the things that come with it. And the third is do your part to make sure that when people are here, that they're saying the right things. They're going to come to your businesses. You're going to meet them on the street. You're going to meet them around events. For us to have the ability to not only do more Super Bowls, but to keep Formula One here, to bring the NCAA Final Four here in 2028. To keep these things coming, we've got to create a buzz in this community that not only do we take care of people, but we take care of them in a way that demands that they want to come back; that they want to invest in this community; they want to be in business with you.