A massive event like the Super Bowl doesn’t just happen overnight. Here are some of the logistical considerations that go into making the big game a success.
The Super Bowl is not only one of the biggest days of the year for football fans, but it’s also a major undertaking in terms of logistics, transportation, and supply chain management. NFL venues go through extensive preparations prior to each game, but with the Super Bowl, the stakes are even higher. In addition to the tens of thousands of people who attend each year’s Super Bowl, the game is watched by an average of more than 100 million people worldwide.
Events on the scale of the Super Bowl that have so many eyes on them and so many moving parts require protracted strategic planning. Even with the best-laid plans, issues are bound to emerge. So, it’s essential to have flexible supply chain logistics in place to beat a blitz of last-minute challenges.
Super Bowl Supply Chain Management
There are many different factors that need to come together in order for the Super Bowl to be successful, but three of primary importance are:
- Preparing the venue
- Coordinating transportation solutions, and
- Building a sustainable waste management supply chain.
At the venue, labor management and inventory management are major parts of the logistics game plan. The stadium and both NFL teams involved need to coordinate with their employees, vendors, and volunteers to ensure that the field and equipment are prepared and ready ahead of time.
Merchandising is a great example of Super Bowl supply chain challenges and the forethought required. Each team creates branded “champion” merch that needs to be designed, produced, shipped, and made available as soon as the game ends in order to take advantage of demand. The losing team’s unsellable merchandise is generally sent overseas and donated to those in need.
There’s also the matter of transportation management to ensure that the players’ cleats, helmets, jerseys, and pads all make it to the right lockers. Then there are the coaches, assistants, medical team, and other non-player staff members needing their uniforms, headsets, monitors, and other equipment— all of which need to be procured, stored, and shipped to the venue ahead of time. This strict attention to detail requires that teams have attentive logistics personnel who are able to ensure that everything is in its place before kickoff. Then there’s the halftime show, a 20 minute blitz of confetti, choreography, and music--with just six minutes for setup.
The field itself undergoes a rigorous examination prior to each game. The NFL has strict requirements, including metrics like depth, hardness, composition and evenness of the playing surface. The field and turf must be tested 48 to 72 hours before kickoff, and you can only imagine the scramble that occurs if the field doesn’t meet any of these standards before the coin toss.
The one or two dozen balls rotated on and off the field on Super Bowl Sunday are provided by the home team. The footballs are held to precise standards in terms of inflation pounds per square inch (PSI). (Let’s not forget what happened to the New England Patriots in 2015’s “Deflategate” debacle.) Even the color of the tarps used to cover the field is regulated by the NFL, which underscores just how much teams and venues rely on getting supply chain right in order to ensure a seamless experience.
Supply Chain and Sustainability on Super Bowl Sunday
More than 25 years ago, the NFL Environmental Program began implementing sustainability efforts for the Super Bowl games, including comprehensive supply chain sustainability goals. For Super Bowl LIII, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta endeavored to reduce waste and promote sustainability in the local community in a number of ways. One interesting development was onsite edible landscaping. That’s right, massive concrete stadiums are now growing food-producing plants around the stadium. This reduces the costs and systems associated with food transportation management. The stadium, which has an impressive number of sustainability features, is also LEED Platinum certified and uses about half as much water as other stadiums of similar size.
The Super Bowl is estimated to generate over 40 tons of waste, including beer cups, meal containers, and leftover food. While in years past all of these products would end up in landfills, now the NFL Environmental Program works with nearly 90 nonprofit organizations. These nonprofits help repurpose, recycle, and reuse materials that would otherwise be treated as waste.
While each Super Bowl is a complex and complicated spectacle, it’s all worth it when the fireworks boom and the jets buzz over the stadium before kickoff. Well-coordinated supply chains are the backbone of what makes this event a success year after year.