The New Orleans Saints had just beaten the Indianapolis Colts to win Super Bowl XLIV and Stephen Perry’s cell phone was buzzing like crazy as he stood basking in the triumph of his hometown team at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. “I probably had 25 to 30 major customers texting me or e-mailing me after the game, talking about the game and how they couldn’t wait to come back to New Orleans,” said Perry, president and chief executive officer at the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most were association clients, he said.
For Perry, the Super Bowl victory was the culmination of a long road back after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “All of the coverage surrounding the Saints and the Super Bowl awakened the remainder of the country that wasn’t already aware that New Orleans was fully back,” said Perry. “This was the moment that Katrina was put completely behind us.”
The game was the most watched television program in history, surpassing the final episode of “MASH” in 1983. That kind of exposure is difficult to put a price tag on, he said, especially since the story was not just about the game but also about the rebirth of New Orleans. “It became sort of the ultimate story of going through trials and tribulations and coming out the other end with a positive outcome—a triumph over despair,” said Perry. “And in our business, which is an image- and perception-driven business, this new view of New Orleans is through the lens of a championship. All of those good messages came through, and there’s nothing like having a billion people around the world see it.”
It was also great exposure for Indianapolis, a city with its own story to tell. The Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association had a booth in the media room at the Super Bowl, where it promoted the city to the hordes of media. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase your city and get in front of people that you wouldn’t normally get in front of,” explained Don Welsh, president and CEO, Indianapolis CVA. “We’re definitely hoping to capitalize on that.”
Considering the new meetings infrastructure in Indianapolis, there is a lot to talk about. The city has a new stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, and an expanded airport. By the end of this year, Indy will have an expanded Indiana Convention Center, built over the site of the old RCA Dome, and a new hotel complex within walking distance of the convention center, adding 1,625 rooms.
The CVA also brought a team of more than 30 people to Miami, including hoteliers, as part of the planning for 2012 when Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl. “We looked at the headquarters hotels, the team hotels, the logistics of parties and events, the logistics of transportation, food and beverage, stadium operations—those kinds of things. Each piece was compartmentalized. It was the ultimate site inspection,” Welsh said.
With New Orleans hosting the Super Bowl the following year, in 2013, the NOMCVB also had its host committee in Miami for a Super Bowl site inspection, says Perry. In addition, the bureau brought along James Carville and Mary Matalin, the well-known political power couple from New Orleans, to promote the city.
And New Orleans got two extra promotional opportunities, thanks to a friendly wager between CVB chiefs Perry and Welsh. Because the Saints won, Welsh had to wear a Drew Brees jersey for an entire day while meeting with customers. (Brees is quarterback for the Saints.) Also, at Destinations Showcase Expo and Conference on February 25 in Washington, D.C., New Orleans CVB staff will be sitting in the Indianapolis booth for about an hour.