Thanks to New Orleans Saints, City Hopes Positive Media Exposure Will Help Boost Local Economy

Who was the real marketing winner of Super Bowl XVLI?

Not Saints quarterback Drew Brees, despite his record-tying 32 pass completions. Not defensive back Tracy Porter, though his interception return for a touchdown sealed the victory. Not coach Sean Payton, for his risk-filled decision to start the second half with an onsides kick.

All of them have endorsement potential, of course. But there was only one true, clear-cut marketing winner Sunday night as the confetti flew and the trophy was awarded.

New Orleans.

The city that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has struggled to regain its economic footing, particularly through tourism, received a huge jolt from the day-long Super Bowl coverage that culminated in a victory by the New Orleans Saints over the Indianapolis Colts.

“The city of New Orleans is going to benefit big time,” said Robert Tuchman, exec VP of sports- and entertainment-marketing company Premiere Global Sports, New York. “A revitalized French Quarter and the airing of Bourbon Street after the Saints won gave an image into the national conscience that New Orleans is back in a big way. Hopefully it erased some of the lasting images from Katrina for those who have avoided traveling there. New Orleans is a first-rate town for hosting events, and this will only make it better.”

Live shots from CBS and other networks after the game of the unbridled joy and partying from the Quarter are invaluable to the city, with more coverage expected from Tuesday’s victory parade as well as Mardi Gras events the rest of the week that culminate with Fat Tuesday on Feb. 16.

‘Worth millions’
“It’s worth millions to us, for sure,” said Mary Beth Romig, director of communications for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “What it means in terms of economic development, there’s really no way to put a true dollar figure on it. It’s invaluable.”

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Joyce Julius & Associates, which measures sponsorship and media exposure values, did put a value on it. In a study, the firm found that print and TV coverage of New Orleans led to a media exposure value of $22.7 million and that was in 2002, when the city played host to the Super Bowl. Sunday’s game was in Miami.

“I don’t know if a city has ever been mentioned as much on a Super Bowl telecast that wasn’t the host city as New Orleans was mentioned on Sunday,” said Eric Wright, VP-research and product development for Joyce Julius. “The media value is not only extremely high, but the positive messages about the city were abundant in the mainstream media. This is on par with if the city had actually hosted the game. It was a great advertisement of where they were then [in 2005 after Katrina] and where they are now.”

And the city needs it. In 2004, the last full year before Katrina hit, New Orleans drew more than 10 million visitors and made $5 billion in tourism. It still hasn’t recovered, as 7.6 million people visited the Crescent City in 2009.

“New Orleans is a winner here, as this will focus attention on the city’s rebuilding tourism industry, and the media will be back in force for Mardi Gras and JazzFest,” said Robert Boland, marketing professor at New York University. “Even if [Saints owner] Tom Benson may be premature in saying New Orleans is back, more visitors and a return of the magic the city once had will speed that becoming true.”

Mr. Boland added that the city and Mr. Brees are also helped by the clips of the Saints quarterback and the off-the-field work he has done around New Orleans.

“The images of Brees kissing his son postgame and the pregame interviews of him touring New Orleans are magical, and he shows a kind of humanity many players don’t,” Mr. Boland said.

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