By Courtney Thompson Posted January 30, 2009, 5:23 PM EST
The recession is taking a toll on the Super Bowl festivities this year, with more than a few brands following Playboy's lead, and bailing on the hosting duties they've typically taken on. Among them is Audi, who last year took over a private manse in Phoenix's chi-chi Paradise Valley neighborhood to host its Audi Forum, a multi-day gifting suite and party venue that showcased the company's R8 vehicle atop a plexiglass truss in the pool.
Also taking a back seat this year is veteran host Sports Illustrated. The magazine plans to trot swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker around town this weekend, but is not sponsoring any parties. Same goes for Victoria's Secret, which hosted its first gifting suite and Saturday-night party last year, going head to head with longtime host Playboy. After two years of producing Vice the Party, Bookem Danno's Dan Parente opted out this year because “Sponsorship money was scarce and ticket sales even tougher.” Instead he's producing Coors Light's Apex party tonight in Orlando, where Nelly will perform.
Lad mag Maxim is returning as a host, but with a scaled-back party. Produced by TK New York's Tracy Kessler and Maxim corporate events director Amanda Civitello, tonight's party at the Ritz Ybor Tampa will welcome roughly 1,200 guests, half of last year's 2,500 attendees. DJs AM and Vice are returning, though no “surprise” entertainment act is scheduled. (T-Pain and Akon performed in 2008.) Samsung is back as a lead sponsor, with its 26-foot tunnel of 40 flat-screen TVs.
Fox also is scaling back, though vice president of special events K. Tomiko Iwata attributed the size to “the fact that we're not the broadcast network this year.” After constructing a tent for 1,400 guests in a Phoenix parking lot, this year the network is hosting an intimate party for 150 at Columbia Restaurant in Clearwater.
The few events returning in their usual capacity include DirecTV's third annual Celebrity Beach Bowl at Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg tomorrow, where actors Kevin Dillon and Christian Slater and the Kardashian sisters are set to challenge NFL players Merril Hoge and Jamal Anderson. This year marks the first time DirecTV has hosted the event in an actual stadium—last year they created a sand field and flanked it with bleachers—and a pre-game show is being introduced, helmed by the cast from Showtime's Inside the NFL. Another new facet: The game is being aired live on WGN America. LL Cool J is rounding out the event with a post-game performance. Event Eleven's Tony Schubert is producing with DirecTV senior vice president of advertising and PR Jon Gieselman.
ESPN the Magazine is returning with its usual gusto. The private Next Big Weekend party for 1,300 guests and a performance by Wyclef Jean takes place tonight, followed by a public event for 5,000 tomorrow with Sean Kingston entertaining. Schubert is producing both of these events as well.
Relevent’s Tony Berger, who produced the Playboy and Audi fetes last year, this weekend is creating an event space in a 10,000-square-foot private airport hanger located three blocks from the Raymond James stadium, where the Sunday game is taking place. Marquis Jet (a 2008 Audi Forum sponsor) is hosting a Saturday afternoon event in the space, and sports entertainment agencies PrimeSport and DeBartolo Sports are hosting a tailgate from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.