The music industry and the sports world have long been a natural match. You don’t have to remind the athletes and well-known musical acts of that, but when attending a tentpole sporting event, the trend of the last decade has been to complement that event with a concert or a large music festival.
A decade ago, that might mean that a Pro Football Hall of Fame Weekend would include a performance by Canton, Ohio’s own, the O’Jays. Fast forward to now, and Maroon 5 headlined the Concert for Legends at the stadium. In addition, visitors to the NCAA Final Four know that the March Madness Music Fest has become a staple of the traveling road show going back years.
However, the Super Bowl — one event that truly captures the undivided attention of sports fans every year — hasn’t quite had that same accompanying treatment.
In an effort to create a blowout musical event to pair with the Super Bowl, Don Renzulli, executive vice president of events at On Location Experiences, is proud of his team’s latest efforts in further solidifying its place as a leader in the premium experiential hospitality business.
“On Location Experiences was initially launched in March 2015, when the NFL was seeking a strategic reposition of its premium events and hospitality business,” he said of the company, which besides its NFL work, also operates well-known brands in the sports travel business such as PrimeSport and Anthony Travel. “From then, we have grown by providing unrivaled access to corporate clients and fans looking for immersive experiences at the biggest events in sports and entertainment.”
On Sunday, February 3, the AFC and NFC will send their best to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
From Thursday, January 31 to Saturday, February 2, many of the most popular and cleverly selected feature acts from the music industry will also descend upon Georgia to add to the atmosphere and experience at the brand-new Super Bowl Music Fest.
“When looking at major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, there are so many opportunities to really enhance the experience and incorporate the hosting city,” Renzulli said. “In years past, we have helped produce concerts leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, but they were held in a private pop-up venue. With the Super Bowl Music Fest, it allows us to really tap into city’s offerings and work with what is already there, instead of bringing in something new and temporary.
“In short, the Super Bowl Music Fest has always been a part of our plan. This is our third Super Bowl, and with each year, we learn more about the fans, the hosting cities and what we can do to amplify the event.”
Along the way to the Super Bowl, On Location Experiences learned a fair amount from other events stemming from separate partnerships. In turn, that played a substantial part in the design of the Super Bowl Music Fest.
“On Location is involved with numerous events across the sports and music industries. With each one, we gain a little more insight on the important operational aspects that enhances the overall fan experience,” he said. “No matter the size or type of event, we always build our events around the clients’ experience.
“In creating the SBMF, we relied on our previous knowledge of the Super Bowl and the events that surround the weekend, and in combination with our growing involvement in the music industry, we are able to create an event that merges the worlds of sports and music.”
It’s not just the way it’s designed; the inaugural Super Bowl Music Fest features a lineup of heavy hitters from the music industry too. From Bruno Mars and Cardi B to Aerosmith and Post Malone, the festival showcases names that are sure to draw attention. The lineup even features Atlanta’s own Ludacris and Migos to kickoff the festivities the Thursday before the big game.
That, too, was no accident.
“When the plans started to come together for the SBMF, we always wanted to focus on the ‘local’ aspect of the event. From where the event was taking place, to the performers, we wanted the SBMF to be a way to highlight each hosting city and what each uniquely has to offer.”
There was something else “very Atlanta” that came into play when putting together the event for On Location Experiences: the Atlanta Hawks.
The NBA franchise plays in State Farm Arena — next door to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, CNN Center, and major tourist attractions around Centennial Olympic Park. The Hawks’ schedule had to be accounted for as the venue was selected to play host for all events at the Super Bowl Music Fest. If you look closely, the Hawks are on a multi-week road trip leading up to and including Super Bowl LIII.
“I would say the scheduling of the Hawks was pretty important, especially since State Farm Arena was always on the top of our list as we starting to look for the right venue to host the SBMF,” Renzulli said. “Luckily for us, we were able to partner with the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena to use the space for our event, as well as from a sales and marketing standpoint.
“Steve Koonin, the CEO of the Hawks and State Farm Arena, and his team have really been key partners in the planning and development of this event, and we are absolutely thrilled to be able to have this event at their state-of-the-art arena.”
So, where does the pairing of major sporting events and major music acts go from here? Were there learnings and aspects of putting on the Super Bowl Music Fest that On Location Experiences has already seen as opportunities to leverage in the future?
“Absolutely,” Renzulli said. “We believe that the sports and music industries are intertwined and that there are still more opportunities to be found in this space. Since the Super Bowl Music Fest is the first of its kind, we think it can be used somewhat as a template at future sporting events.”