At the heart of every Super Bowl is its host committee, a locally based, guiding force responsible for a litany of factors ranging from fan experience to economic development.
As Arizona readies for its first Super Bowl since 2008, and third overall, I met with Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee CEO, Jay Parry over the holidays.
Parry’s path to this prestigious role started at Bank of America, where she worked in a variety of marketing functions and eventually oversaw sponsorships. After 17 years with BofA, she moved back to Phoenix to lead the WNBA’s Mercury as their President and CEO before transitioning to the Phoenix Suns as Senior Vice President of Brand and Business Development. Then the Super Bowl Committee opportunity arose, and the culmination of Parry and her team’s work over the past two years will come to fruition in the coming weeks.
We chatted about what to expect for those descending on Phoenix, a certain controversial bill that some thought could cause the NFL to pivot locations, and advice Parry has for those who want to follow in her tracks.
How do you determine whether or not a Super Bowl is considered successful from a host committee standpoint?
For Arizona, we have three primary goals. The first is to use the intense and worldwide interest in the Super Bowl to really tell the Arizona story, create the Arizona brand and use that as an enormous commercial for Arizona.
The second goal is to create economic impact. That comes in a number of different ways at a number of different levels. One example is our unique CEO Forum where we’re inviting fifty CEOs from around the world to come to Super Bowl. We’ll then have a weekend curriculum learning about Arizona as a place to build and grow your business because we have such a pro-business environment. We have room to grow so we have a really unique story in that way.
Our third goal is to leave a positive, lasting legacy. The NFL is so committed to supporting the local host community for Super Bowl, whether that’s from a foundation standpoint and giving to nonprofits or supporting small business to accelerate their skills so they’re ready to take on Super Bowl contracts.
Last year, I remember getting off the train at Penn Station in New York the Monday before the Super Bowl and there was virtually nothing to indicate it was a special week. I heard it was the same at the airports. Are you going to have a welcome program at Sky Harbor for travelers to the Super Bowl?
We will have volunteers. It’s funny, I was talking to someone about this the other day, about what New York did well and could improve upon, and they said, ‘The one thing that struck me was when I got off the plane I thought I would feel like I was coming to Super Bowl.’ They just didn’t have that included in their program.
I don’t know if you saw any of our signage already up in the airport, we have a countdown clock in Terminal 4, and we’ll have greeters and ambassadors there because we do really do want you to have a warm greeting to frame your experience.
You must have been excited when the after months of speculation, Katy Perry was officially announced as the halftime act.
Oh, definitely. I got so many questions about it for so long. ‘Is it Katy? Is it Katy Perry?”
But it’s wonderful to have that news out there. All these announcements over the fall, as you know, kept the interest up, kept it all fresh. Hopefully you saw our super-sized football out front.
I did. I already tweeted out a picture.
Good job. So it’s all about keeping the event top of mind with people.
About a year ago, Arizona’s SB-1062, considered by many an anti-gay bill became a major media story and there were rumors the NFL may have pulled out had the bill not been vetoed by Governor Brewer. What was your mindset at the time?
It’s interesting. I learned a couple of things. When that bubbled up, it all happened really quickly. There was so much attention that was really self-generated from the media asking, “What’s the impact on the Super Bowl?” It really reminded me what an enormous platform Super Bowl is and so I wasn’t looking to make a comment to the media around 1062.
Talking to all our stakeholders, the host committee really mirrors the NFL’s values in terms of wanting to be inclusive and not have any discrimination. In polling our stakeholders, they all thought the bill would impact us negatively from a business standpoint, and would be a setback on the international stage. So we were not supportive and we shared that with our local elected officials, after they asked us.
Did they ask for your support or your stance?
They really asked up for our stance. So that was going on, and concurrently the business community rallied quickly and they were opposed to the bill.
Were you concerned the NFL would pull out?
There were not any direct conversations with the league about them taking action. They wanted to see how it played out. That was really what happened. There wasn’t a threat from the NFL. They just wanted it to play it out and see what made sense at that point.
But there had to be a big exhale when the bill was shot down.
Oh my gosh, there was an ENORMOUS exhale. You don’t realize how much turmoil there is within the community until it’s over, and yes, it was an enormous exhale.
Aside from the climate and general makeup of the two cities, what can you say will be the biggest differences in the fan experience between Phoenix and New York?
The great thing about the Valley is that we have set it up so that the epicenter of Super Bowl activities will be in Downtown Phoenix at Super Bowl Central. We’re creating a twelve-block campus that will really take over downtown. It will be next to the NFL Experience on one side, and NFL House and some other NFL activation on the other. We’re really using space to our advantage for all those activities. Our wow factor won’t be a toboggan, it will be more Arizona-centric as opposed to snow-centric.
The other thing we’re doing which is slightly different is having a website and programming for our Hispanic community. With the Arizona population being over 30% Hispanic, we wanted to make sure they were invited to the Super Bowl Party and felt included. We also wanted to showcase positive trade relations with Mexico. So we’ve identified some Mexico-based businesses that we’d love to partner with and we’ve had a lot of momentum there too.
Your path is so unique. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be the next you?
What I’ve loved about my career is I got so much exposure working for Bank of America in a large corporate environment with a lot of resources and challenges. I think getting into places where you can get great experience and exposed to different situations is really important. Then I also think it’s important to do something you’re really excited about. Just to do something you enjoy makes it so much easy to accomplish your goals and be excited about the people you work with.
Surround yourself with great people.
What’s next for you?
That is a great question. I’m open to ideas. I have one of those careers where there wasn’t a grand scheme and it’s worked out great. I’ll just see what happens next.