NEWS

Super Bowl XLIX Preview: What Brands Like Bud Light, DirecTV, and 'Playboy' are Bringing to the Big Game

Here's a sneak peek at what major brands have in store for Super Bowl parties and activations in Arizona next weekend.

By Jenny Berg January 22, 2015, 7:30 AM EST

Verizon Super Bowl Central will take place in downtown Phoenix January 28 to February 1, one of several events surrounding Super Bowl XLIX.

Rendering: Courtesy of ToH Design Studio

Super Bowl XLIX takes place on February 1, with the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks facing off at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The game—which features Katy Perry has the halftime performer—will mark the first Super Bowl to have taken place in the Phoenix area since 2008. And reps from the city's tourism industry say plenty has changed in seven years.

“Our downtown [area] has undergone billions of dollars in improvements since [2008],” said Douglas MacKenzie, director of media relations at Visit Phoenix. In addition to new hotels including the 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, the 242-room Hotel Palomar Phoenix, and the 242-room Westin Phoenix Downtown, the city has a new $600 million convention center; shopping, hotel, and office complex Cityscape; and the Light Rail, a new public transportation system.

“This time around, downtown Phoenix will be the epicenter of fan activity with 12 blocks of food and entertainment, the N.F.L. Experience, dozens of local eateries and food trucks, and daily and nightly live music,” MacKenzie said. Officially dubbed Verizon Super Bowl Central, the 12-block activation is free and open to fans from January 28 to February 1. It will offer a photo backdrop of giant roman numerals spelling out XLIX, as well as a beer and wine garden, fireworks, and autograph sessions with N.F.L. players. There will also be a Grand Canyon Experience, which is a 30-foot-tall, 100-foot-wide replica of the Grand Canyon built out of rock walls. The walls, which have miniature waterfalls rushing down them, will allow for 20 climbers to ascend them at a time. An 18-foot video screen will be at the summit of the structure.

The N.F.L. Experience, held at the Phoenix Convention Center from January 24 to February 1, will include football-inspired games, activities for kids, and a showcase of 48 Super Bowl rings. In all, the city will host around 30 large-scale events surrounding the game, and brands are flocking to Phoenix and Scottsdale to host private events of their own.

Bud Light, which traditionally has a major presence at the Super Bowl, already has built out a life-size Pac-Man maze in downtown Los Angeles for its Super Bowl TV spot. The maze will be featured in the ad, which was created by Chicago-based advertising agency BBDO and experiential marketing firm Mosaic. For its on-the-ground event, the brand has abandoned its five-years-running Bud Light Hotel and planned a new activation: the Bud Light House of Whatever. Inspired by the beverage's marketing tagline, “the perfect beer for whatever happens,” the activation will offer parties, activities, and concerts from acts such as DJ Steve Aoki.

Magazine brands will also have a large footprint on the Super Bowl party landscape. Though GQ does not plan to host a party this year, Rolling Stone has a big bash in the works. Toast, Bookem Danno, and Talent Resources Sports will produce the music magazine's event, which will have a “raw, gritty, motorcycle-inspired theme with just a bit of Grindhouse,“ according to Toast partner Kimberly Krouse. Set to take place in Scottsdale on January 31, the event will feature rows of Harley Davidson bikes parked at the entrance (“just to let them know they're not the first ones to the party,” Krouse said.)

Inside the Rolling Stone event, different areas will be staged to reflect certain themes. In the “Brand” section, guests can get real and temporary tattoos; the “Mug Shot” will let partygoers create souvenir GIFs against the backdrop of a custom Rolling Stone cover. A silent auction will feature rock memorabilia displayed on the walls, and other tropes could include anything from pinball machines to a “sexy snake dancer.” As for the entertainment—important to a music-related brand— DJ Cassidy will spin and Charli XCX will open for the headline act: Steven Tyler.

Other magazines set to host Super Bowl events include Maxim. Though the glossy has yet to release complete details of its party, the bash will take place in an airport hangar with music from DJ Vice. There will also be a surprise performer. Tabasco is one of the event's sponsors and has partnered with chef Aarón Sanchez of Chopped to create three recipes for the event. Items will include “Touchdown Tacos” with mezcal-lime coleslaw and “Super Shrimp” with habanero butter. Playboy, meanwhile, will host its event on January 30 at W Scottsdale. Hosted by hip-hop artist Nelly and with entertainment from DJ duo the Captains of Industry, the night will feature 24 Playboy Playmates in bunny costumes.

Like Bud Light, DirecTV will also leave behind a long-standing tradition to bring something new to the Super Bowl this year. Instead of hosting its traditional Celebrity Beach Bowl, the satellite TV provider will host its first Super Fan Festival. The three-day event, held at the Pendergast Family Farm in Glendale (across the street from the University of Phoenix Stadium), will offer 13 concerts from January 28 to 30. Headline acts including Zac Brown Band, Calvin Harris, and Imagine Dragons will perform on the DirecTV Super Fan stage, while acts such as Young the Giant and Ingrid Michaelson will perform in another area, the HGTV Lodge. The Super Fan Festival is open to the public and has tickets available on StubHub, but the brand will also host a private event on Saturday night.

Rihanna will headline the Super Saturday Night bash, which will also take place at the Pendergast Family Farm. Co-hosted by Mark Cuban's AXS TV and former New York Giants player Michael Strahan, the event is once again being produced by CL22.

ESPN will host its Super Bowl bash on January 30. Produced by Event Eleven, the night will feature performances from J. Cole and Charli XCX, along with music from DJs Questlove and SoSuperSam. The sports network will also host a Super Bowl Roast with the Friars Club, a New York-based private club, at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel on January 29. Comedian and actor Joel McHale will host the the event, and sports broadcaster Terry Bradshaw will be the roast's target.

The 12th annual Leathers & Laces event, presented by Axxis Entertainment, will include celebrity appearances from models Adriana Lima, Behati Prinsloo, Erin Heatherton, and Lily Aldridge. The two-night event will take place on January 30 and 31 at the Bentley Projects Gallery in Phonenix—a 25,000-square-foot warehouse space. It will offer live entertainment from Cobra Starship, acrobatic troupe Cirque, and mentalist Jim Karol. Another model, Alessandra Ambrosio, will host an event at Cake Nightclub sponsored by VoCo. The event is part of a series of nightly parties put by the local nightclub and the Tao nightlife brand. Scheduled for January 29 to February 1, the nighttime events will feature guest DJs including DJ Ruckus; the series is dubbed “Cake and Tao Present Tao Takeover During Big Game Weekend.”

The fuzzy players in Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl are also headed to Phoenix. Aired before the Super Bowl and during halftime, the event showcases live puppies on a small-scale football field. Set to take place at Super Bowl Central, a Puppy Bowl Cafe celebrating the game will open from January 29 to February 1. The café will offer food and drink; adoptable puppies will hit a mock football field daily at 10 a.m.; and the official referee of this year's Puppy Bowl will be on hand to chat with media.

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