New Orleans Sets Precedent On How Tech Should Be Integrated Into Future Super Bowls
By: Adriana Lopez | Forbes | 02/07/2013
New Orleans has been witnessing an economic renaissance due, in large part, to the digital media and technology boom that is currently sweeping the region. From film production and software development to biotechnology and online trading, technology is king in New Orleans right now. And, the city’s growing industry certainly shined during Super Bowl XLVII, despite the 34-minute blackout at The Mercedes-Benz Super Dome.
With several initiatives that were led primarily by the Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee, technology was fully integrated into this year’s event like never before. The tech subcommittee, a component that was newly added to this year’s Super Bowl, had the task of doing more than just vetting contracts and making sure there were sufficient cell phone towers in the area. Their goal was to use technology to enhance the visitor experience in New Orleans, while capitalizing on the growing tech industry and talent in the region.
“The Super Bowl was a great catalyst, but it was not the endgame,” said Jeremy Cooker, Chair of the Super Bowl’s Technology Committee. He explained that their objective stretched beyond just providing customer service to New Orleans visitors for the week.
“Our focus was to show the world that New Orleans is back, as well as shed light on all the entrepreneurial and tech activity that is happening in the city.”
And, that is exactly what they did, as over 100,000 football fans and a record breaking 5,200 media professionals descended upon the city last week. All eyes were focused on New Orleans, and developers, social media professionals, entrepreneurs, and Super Bowl partners were on hand to showcase the city to the world.
Integrated Social Media Provided Visitors with Direct Customer Service
As social media has quickly evolved over the years, major events have had to learn the hard way the value of the resource and its ability to both help and hurt a business. By integrating social media into this year’s event, The Super Bowl Host Committee was able to naturally shape the story and monitor the conversation effectively.
The Super Bowl Host Committee partnered with social media analytics company HootSuite and online marketing firm FSC Interactive to create the NASA Mission Control Center of social media. With several volunteers and banks of large computer monitors tracking all the trending topics and conversations surrounding New Orleans and the Super Bowl online, the social media team followed everything from NFL specifics to transit logistics in New Orleans.
The goal was to provide thousands of New Orleans visitors with direct customer service by tracking relevant social media conversations on several different platforms within a 10 mile radius.Volunteers could stream specific topics on Twitter and respond to visitor questions and concerns using the Super Bowl Host Committee’s Twitter handle (@NOLASuperBowl.) They were prepared to answer visitor queries, make restaurant recommendations, and even respond to crisis situations, if they came up.
“This was a collaboration between several local marketing firms,” said Tiffany Starnes, VP of FSC Interactive, who spent six months developing the strategy. “We wanted to find ways to best showcase what’s going on in New Orleans.”
User generated recommendations came directly from New Orleans residents, who used the hash tag ‘Best of NOLA’ to suggest some of their favorite places to eat, drink, and hang out. The call came from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Twitter account and the conversation quickly grew online to include topics such as jazz, live music, seafood, gumbo, and Magazine St.
A software program called Infomous gathered core elements and key words from the online conversations and turned them into visual elements. The most frequently used topics were identified on conversation clouds, even picking up some unlikely keywords, such as ‘relocating,’ using #BestofNOLA.
The social media command center was first created last year in Indianapolis by a local marketing firm to gather specifics for the NFL. However, this year was the first time social media was fully integrated into the Host Committee’s initiatives. With the command center headquartered at Super Bowl XLVII’s Media Center this year, members of the media were given the opportunity to walk through the space and check out the trending topics surrounding the teams, the city, and the big game.
“This was the next step in what felt like a natural evolution,” explained Matt Wolfe, a member of the technology committee. “Indy paved the way for us, and we are just paving the way for New York next year.”
Mobile Technology Enhanced the Volunteer Experience
For the first time, a mobile application was created to help manage and coordinate volunteer activities. Powered by the Super Bowl Volunteer Program’s sponsors, Chevron Human Energy, the app significantly enhanced all aspects of volunteer communications, including training, scheduling, and visitor interactions.
The idea to create the app was part of Chevron’s S.T.E.M. initiative, which uses science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to drive economic growth in certain regions. With the use of technology, the volunteers with smart phones were able to, not only enhance the visitor experience, but they were also able to make their job much more efficient.
“We wanted to find a way to bring our technology to our partners in the Host Committee and leverage those opportunities to stay ahead of the game,” explained Sakari Morrison, Manager of Policy, Government and Public Affairs for Chevron.
Each of the 6,000 credentialed volunteers was given a username and password, and those with smartphones could download the app for free from iTunes and the Google app store. With 50 different jobs available, volunteers could use the app to sign up for new shifts or cancel their current shifts, making those available to other volunteers looking for specific opportunities. They could also review their schedules, which were fully equipped with maps, to help them get to their locations.
The app even included contact information, a general NFL schedule, and an FAQ page, which included general talking points that were collaborated by the Super Bowl Host Committee and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. As last year’s volunteers carried binders full of materials around Indianapolis, The Super Bowl Volunteer app took much of that burden and confusion off this year’s volunteers.