While more than 20,000 people work to make the Super Bowl happen, only one person has been ultimately responsible for pulling off the world’s biggest annual sporting event: Frank Supovitz. And this year presented a supersize challenge: With New York and New Jersey as hosts, it was the first outdoor championship in a cold-weather region. So in addition to planning the usual game logistics, Supovitz was constantly monitoring the weather and had plans for everything from snow removal to changing the game date.
Fortunately no backup plans were needed—the game was played in 51-degree weather—and it became the most-watched Super Bowl ever, with 111.5 million viewers. It was also Supovitz’s last Super Bowl: He plans to leave the N.F.L. on June 20 to start his own event management company, Fast Traffic Events & Entertainment.
Nevertheless, he’s leaving behind a lasting legacy. Each year he and his team have had to reinvent Super Bowl week with new experiences for fans and sponsors. The star attraction in New York was Super Bowl Boulevard, a fan fest that stretched through Midtown Manhattan and drew 1.5 million visitors to attractions such as a 60-foot-high toboggan run. Also new this year was Forty Ate, a restaurant concept the league created with restaurateur Danny Meyer, and the N.F.L. House, a drop-in hospitality center for sponsors.
“You tweak in some cases and you revolutionize in others,” Supovitz says. “I think that as the Super Bowl continues to grow and evolve, you will see more and more of that kind of innovation.”
Supovitz, 56, started his career in events as a Radio City Music Hall usher at age 15 and has been with the N.F.L. since 2005. While the football season runs from August to February, the league’s events happen year-round and include the scouting combine, draft, season kickoff game and concert, owners meetings, and Hall of Fame enshrinement game.
Then there are the unexpected events, like producing a telethon to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. Having no prior experience with telethons, Supovitz’s team recruited current and former players, created a payment system, and organized other logistics in just 10 days, raising $5 million for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.
Being flexible helped Supovitz at this year’s all-star game, the Pro Bowl, which was held in Hawaii the week before the Super Bowl. Because of concerns over the weather in New York, Supovitz felt it was too risky to make the trip. Instead, he went there virtually, teleconferencing in via a high-definition camera in the control room that Supovitz could tilt, pan, and zoom. Supovitz wore a Hawaiian shirt, his on-site staff placed a lei around the camera, and the game went on. “Talk about innovation,” he says. “It was incredibly smooth. It was flawless.”