Throwing a Super Bowl party is a well-worn activation strategy during Super Bowl week. Media companies and sponsors spend big trying to convince athletes and celebrities to attend their VIP event, hoping the buzz will have a halo effect on their brand.
But as Turner Sports’ Bleacher Report has looked to activate its new B/R Gridiron brand for the first time during Super Bowl Week, the company has passed on an expensive late-night party in lieu of trying to create a free, continuous celebration that welcomes all fans.
Starting Tuesday, Jan. 28, the B/R Gridiron brand launched an interactive fan hub in Miami, complete with live shows, special events, and original content. The fan hub will be open through Saturday, Feb. 1.
“Anytime there’s a major sporting event, there are tons of families who descend upon the market, and I think it’s really difficult at Super Bowls to get access as a regular fan to a lot of the things going on,” Bleacher Report Chief Marketing Officer Ed Romaine said. “So part of our strategy is creating an open-ended opportunity to broaden the kinds of consumers that we’re bringing in. We’re making it more family-friendly, and also giving people a place to go where they feel like they have that VIP access with talent, but that they don’t have to break their backs to get into.”
B/R Gridiron has built a young, devoted NFL following in a relatively short time. It expanded its Instagram account to more than 514,000 followers, with 77% of them in the advertiser-coveted 18-34-year-old age demographic. Roughly 10% more fans consumed NFL content on Bleacher Report’s app in 2019. They visited 14% more than they did the previous year.
At the same time, Romaine admits its “really tough” for any media brand to stand out Super Bowl Week. Super Bowl 54 broadcaster Fox Sports, for example, is inviting fans to attend live tapings of FS1 studio shows such as Skip Bayless/Shannon Sharpe’s “Undisputed” and Jason Whitlock/Marcellus Wiley’s “Speak for Yourself.” Meanwhile, ESPN’s Super Bowl Week coverage will include more than 70 hours of original programming from Miami. ESPN is inviting fans to watch live tapings of Mike Greenberg’s “Get Up,” Stephen A. Smith’s “First Take,” “SportsCenter,” “NFL Live” and other shows.
Yes, Bleacher Report will use the B/R Gridiron venue to hold private business meetings with advertisers and vendors. It will also use the space to highlight its shows and content: As partners with AT&T and WarnerMedia, B/R Gridiron will offer fans live versions of “The Dan Patrick Show,” “The Rich Eisen Show,” and a “CNN-Bleacher Report Special.” It will also showcase B/R Gridiron’s own “Lefkoe Show,” “Ditch the Playbook,” “Untold Stories,” and “Stick to Football Podcast.”
But there’s also plenty of families looking for something to do Super Bowl Week. Bleacher Report wants to remove some of the “guard-rails” that typically keep them in their lane, Romaine said.
Many companies host VIP, closed-door experiences Super Bowl Week to get face time with Fortune 500 advertisers, noted Josh Spiegelman, managing director of sponsorships and partnerships at media agency Mindshare.
But it’s smart to market a “new and differentiated extension” of the Bleacher Report brand like B/R Gridiron to core football fans who travel to live events like the Super Bowl and NFL Draft.
“It makes perfect strategic sense to create an experience that brings the B/R Gridiron sub-brand to life for the public,” Spiegelman said. “This approach will allow them to drive further visibility and amplification through consumer-generated content on-site, as well as media coverage.”