Pre-game hospitality is typically a staple of the Super Bowl experience. However, fans attending the big game in Tampa Bay next week—save for the 7,500 vaccinated health-care workers gifted seats by the NFL—may want to grab a bite before heading to Raymond James Stadium. Due to COVID-19 necessitated safety precautions, the “TikTok Tailgate” will be the only pre-game hospitality party inside the stadium’s secured perimeter.
Our Take: It remains unclear if the NFL formally restricted pre-game, on-site events at this year’s game. On Location Experiences, the only other entity permitted to stage tailgates inside the perimeter (in a normal year), referred us to the NFL for comment. NFL VP of Communications Brian McCarthy acknowledged the league had “discussions with partners to ensure that COVID-related considerations are part of any planning process,” but he stopped short of saying the decision to cancel pre-game hospitality events was the league’s alone.
The TikTok party is the NFL’s event for the 7,500 vaccinated health-care workers, which helps to explain why it is seemingly receiving an exemption to the safety protocols. Presumably, with everyone in attendance vaccinated, the league believes it can safely entertain the front-line workers. McCarthy called the pre-game celebration “the league’s primary focus this year”; the event will replace their traditional tailgate party for league partners and sponsors. For what it’s worth, the tickets being gifted to the 7,500 health-care workers have an average value of $2,500.
In Miami (site of last year’s Super Bowl), On Location Experiences hosted 10,000 fans across three different pre-game hospitality areas just outside the stadium. Unable to do the same at this year’s game, the NFL’s preferred Super Bowl ticketing provider (the league remains a minority stakeholder in OLE via 32 Equity) has pivoted to providing fans with an all-mobile, cashless experience. Those buying ticket packages from OLE will receive exclusive access to two virtual “On Location Live” events (including one with Joe Montana in the days leading up to the game), along a $255 VISA gift card to be used on food, beverage and merchandise inside the stadium.
Fans attending this year’s game are in for a different experience. But the lack of pre-game festivities hasn’t impacted pricing on OLE’s ticket and hospitality packages–at least not yet. The cheapest package currently available for sale directly from the company is just shy of $10,000. It must be noted that Brett Goldberg (Co-CEO, TickPick) says comparably priced offerings on his platform “are not moving. They’re not selling–and understandably at these price points.”
One of the benefits to attending a typical NFL or OLE sanctioned Super Bowl pre-game event is the ticket holder can avoid long security lines entering the venue (because they’re coming early). While those buying hospitality packages to this year’s game won’t receive that valuable perk, with just 24,700 fans in attendance (7,500 health care, 14,500 ticketed fans in seats, 2,700 in suites) wait times to get into the stadium should be minimal.
In a normal year, the NFL and OLE would have pre-game events on-site and there would be all sorts of unofficial events in venues nearby. Goldberg explained that as the price of Super Bowl ticket packages has increased—particularly over the last five years—so too have buyer expectations (i.e. lots of seats now come with some sort of hospitality package). But with the corporate crowd taking a pass on this year’s game, most of the events that would typically accompany the game have been canceled, too. “It just doesn’t look good [to be partying during a pandemic],” Goldberg said. “No corporate sponsor wants to be tied to that.”