Super Bowl 57: New Challenges at a Familiar Venue
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For bluemedia, the return of Super Bowl 57 to Phoenix, Arizona was something of a homecoming. Not only is the company based in the city, but their first Super Bowl was 49 — also held in Phoenix. The return to their home town brought both benefits, and a host of new challenges.
“It was definitely interesting,” says RJ Orr, the EVP and partner at bluemedia. “But in many ways, this was also one of our most difficult Super Bowls. Because it was a home game, we were tapped to do a lot more than we do for a normal Super Bowl, and not just for the game, but for events we hadn’t done in a while, like the NFL Honors, which we hadn’t done since 49. We also handled the graphics for Opening Night, which we hadn’t done since 54 in Miami.”
In total, bluemedia produced 1.5 million square feet of graphics for this year’s big game — including everything from the signage in the stadium, to large-scale building wraps, to the official game hotels, and everything in between.
“We wrapped 13 building faces this year,” says Orr, noting that it was “a lot of building graphics. Then combine that with the stadium, which is the largest exterior space we’ve ever done — it was upwards of 50,000 square feet outside. It is a huge one.”
Inside, Orr notes that the team went “above and beyond” what they had done for the event the last time it was in Phoenix, upping their game with everything they’ve learned at various stadiums around the country in the intervening years, including “huge” banners hung inside the stadium. “And then on top of all that, we also had on-location parties, and parties all around town. It really proved to extend what we normally do.”
Other graphics bluemedia produced included everything for the Phoenix airport, the NFL headquarters hotel, both official team hotels, and décor all around the city. Orr notes they also had several buildings in downtown that featured full projections at night, as well as a three-minute projection event on the stadium itself, bringing the printed graphics to life in new and exciting ways.
Beyond the print, bluemedia also has a fabrication team, creating things like the custom entrance to the stadium that fans entered through, and unique photo opportunities around town for fans to pose with and capture the moment. “We built a bunch of different things,” says Orr.
To bring all that to life, Orr notes, took a lot of coordination. “We had to coordinate with building owners and work with the city for permits for the lighting and projection platforms. We had teams of installers, and multiple crews. There was a lot of housekeeping planning the cadence of how it all came to life.”
In addition to his own team, Orr and bluemedia regularly work with outside contractors for the various Super Bowls they work on, and this year was no different, with both local crews and some from around the country coming in to help get everything up and ready to go for game day. “At one point, we had 80 installers working this year. It was a monumental task,” he notes.
The good news, however, was that despite having more graphics and more technical elements to create and install than ever before, bluemedia also had some extra time — because Phoenix’s team wasn’t in the playoffs this year, the installers could get a head start on Super Bowl graphics. In fact, he notes that they were able to start installing some of the elements that didn’t need to have the team logos and branding as early as January 6 — a full five weeks before game day. “Thank god we could start early on the stadium this year,” Orr laughs. “Given the workload and everything the NFL wanted to do, it would have been difficult if the Cardinals were in the playoffs.”
But while the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles were done for the season once the last touchdown was scored, for bluemedia, there was still work left to be done. “It took us about seven days to get everything down,” says Orr.
Most of the removed graphics are actually recycled through the NFL’s environmental program, and what can’t be recycled is repurposed as much as possible. Examples Orr gave is that locally in Phoenix, some of the graphics will be turned into things like fence mesh for construction projects or used to create the mesh used in planters to help prevent weeds. “The vinyl is used in a variety of different things,” says Orr. “If we have wood structures, we’ll reclaim that as well.”
Fortunately, notes Orr, they have a few weeks to breathe before the planning for Super Bowl 58 begins. He points out that many of the same people who work on this project are also tapped to plan and produce the Draft, which is in April in Kansas City — another project bluemedia will be working on. But after that, he notes, “we’ll probably see the first meetings for Super Bowl 58 in May.”
“This year it was a heavy lift for the entire crew, but we all came together,” says Orr. “There were a lot of unique challenges — as there are every year — and given the fact we were local, it was both good and bad at the same time. It’s a learning experience — we’ve been so used to the way we do them away, that being back in town, we had to change the way we thought about things. It was great to stay in town, but at the same time, it’s different. It wasn’t as easy as one would think.”
Overall, it was another successful year for Orr and his entire team, which once again proved that print and graphics of all shapes and sizes are what take an event to the proverbial next level. The game might go on without them, but it wouldn’t be nearly the same spectacle or all-encompassing event that fans around the country look forward to every year without print there to help set the stage and shape the mood. While it might have been bigger than ever, the entire bluemedia team proved that no matter what the challenge is, they are always able to rise above it and excel.
Toni McQuilken is the senior editor for the printing and packaging group.