Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Afterglow: BOOMtown

Richard Sherman salutes the 12th-Man after intercepting a pass. Photo: The Seattle Times

Richard Sherman salutes the 12th-Man after intercepting a pass. Photo: The Seattle Times

In the summer of 2012, at the height of the possibility of a return of an NBA basketball team to the Seattle market, I suggested the city needed to quit focusing on the challenges that come with building a new arena (and NBA and NHL franchises) and open its visionary eyes to the opportunities and rewards that come with a full complement of professional sports teams. While that dream was quashed, if only temporarily, the recent Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win was a dazzling show of the possibilities, not the least of which is a highly engaged community.

 Seattle Seahawks Win Builds Community

Victory Parade

Photo: Seattle DOT

And what an impressive show of community it was, as even the non-football fans got caught up in the frenzy and declared, “I’m In!”; those not engaged by the 12th Man mindset certainly were the exception. When the Big Game arrived, the streets of Seattle were nearly vacant. It is estimated 6 in 10 Western Washington televisions and nearly all (92%) TV sets turned on that afternoon were tuned into the Super Bowl. (One might surmise that the TVs not turned on belonged to those who were watching in bars and at friends’ parties.) Nationally, it was the most-watched television event ever with 111.5 million average viewers, only 2.5 million of whom were in this market. (Average viewership actually was 112.6 million if you include the 528,000 who watched on digital platforms via FOX Sports GO and FOXSports.com and the 561,000 who watched the Spanish-language feed on FOX Deportes.) Where were all those TV-viewing eyeballs located?

  • Kansas City (58.1% of TVs/78% of TV viewers), presumably to enjoy a Denver loss
  • Seattle (56.7/92)
  • Indianapolis (53.9/74)
  • New Orleans (53.2/72)
  • Tulsa (52.9/71)
  • Las Vegas (52.575)
  • Portland (52.4/82)
  • Knoxville (52.3/68)
  • Jacksonville (52.0/68)
  • Denver (51.4/83)
  • Tampa (51.4/71)

Even more remarkable: with the Seahawks dominating in the 43-8 drubbing of the Denver Broncos from the first 12-seconds on – the largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl in 21 years – Nielsen estimates that only 5% of the audience had tuned out by the closing minutes of the game!

The next day, The Seattle Times did an overrun of 125,000 newspapers that sold out by mid-morning. That same day online, Seattletimes.com readers spent 2.3 million minutes on the site reliving the win. An additional sold-out run of 35,000 print copies of the Monday paper were distributed on Tuesday. On Wednesday, schools and businesses emptied as hundreds of thousands of fans and spectators riding the ebullient wave filled the downtown sector – on street, in office, at retail venues, from hotel windows and building rooftops – to watch the victory parade as it wound through town to the packed CenturyLink field (with overrun viewing from Safeco field). Thousands more watched on TV, live streams online or followed the action via social-media feeds. Weeks later, houses, offices and cars remain adorned with Seahawks regalia. No one is ready to leave the afterglow and they remain buoyed by the promise that the Seahawks are going all the way again next season.

Everyone Wins!

No denying, the civic and city-brand enrichment was a much-needed and overdue boost to the greater Seattle psyche, but the real winner was the local economy. There was the consumer-spending lift throughout the winning season of sold-out games and all the trickle-down from that, not the least of which was charitable fundraising from signed football memorabilia. I personally witnessed the $6,000 auction purchase of a Russell Wilson-signed football after the 49er playoff win! Not only does a winning team make us more generous, apparently a winning season increases the personal income of every Seattleite. In 2008, the journal Economic Inquiry published the results of a study, A Winning Proposition: The Economic Impact of Successful National Football League Franchises, that concluded “a winning percentage of the local professional football team had a significant positive effect on real per-capita personal income” of the individuals in the franchise city. Please let me know if that pencils out for you!

12th Man and Beast Mode Score Extra Business

Dick's Drive-in 12th man from Dick's Facebook page

Photo: Dick’s Drive In Facebook page

Both big and small businesses found ways to leverage the frenzy and boost business. Dick’s Drive-in, which happened to be celebrating its 60th anniversary at the same time, put its service team in 12th-Man/60th anniversary blue and green t-shirts that also were for sale at the restaurant and online. They promoted their 12th fandom, encouraged others to participate and offered a special 12-cent cheeseburger through its social-media channels, scoring thousands of new Facebook fans and burger sales. A local food-tour company added a 12th-Man tour that stopped at eateries offering 12th-Man snacks. And a Puyallup butcher, Blue Max Meats, took a gamble on Skittles-infused Beast Mode hot sausage and sold out batch after batch, game after game – more than 3,000 pounds and still selling at four times the usual pace — covering their start-up costs in three months. The innovative tactics could fill a book of case studies, but needless to say, the Seattle entrepreneurial spirit also put in a peak performance!

Seattle Media in Hawk Heaven

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the victory parade

Russell Wilson shares The Seattle Times cover with the victory parade crowd.

From a local media perspective, as the wins mounted, advertiser interest grew along with the fan frenzy. By the time the Super Bowl arrived, FOX had sold out its spots in this market to the tune of $200,000 a pop. Nearly all the media put together their own version of a Super Bowl special, and The Seattle Times special content attracted seven-figures in new and additional revenue with its pre- and post-Super Bowl coverage. Retailers snapped up tens of thousands of the Seattle Times-produced full-season souvenir book, Hawk Heaven, for resale, and The Times store has sold thousands more, along with t-shirts, plaques and posters. While newspaper always has been the merchandising medium, its power to move product was proven in spades as anything that one could slap a logo on – t-shirt, plate, train, cuckoo clock, teddy bears – you name it, was offered in one full-page, full-color ad after another.

Seattle Broke into the National Consciousness with a (Legion of) BOOM!

As a North American sport, one can only grin at the oft-used claim (yes you, Steve Raible) of “World Champion” football team, but who am I to argue semantics amid the civic joy? That said, with all the exposure as Super Bowl victor and can-do team, interest in our region certainly was piqued. That engagement extends to tourism, attracting employers and quality employees, and focuses investment eyes on Seattle’s relatively healthy economy, its diverse industries and highly educated workforce, and its supportive infrastructure for innovation and growth. In an interview with The Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton, Seattle Chamber chief of staff Eric Schinfeld commented on the “halo effect” of a winning team and the highly documented 12th Man, calling them “city ambassadors” whose global reach is priceless. The most pressing issue now is how to extend that immense goodwill beyond the football season!

New Standard Set for Social Media

And who would like to guess the social-media contribution the brand called Richard Sherman alone brought to the area? After the 49er playoff win, he set social media ablaze with an emotional vent that scored millions of YouTube views followed by millions more social-media interactions chronicling not only why he did it, but why he is worthy of both admiration and high praise.

On Twitter, and just for the Big Game, 24.9 million tweets were registered – the biggest U.S. live TV event on the social-media site. And on Facebook, more than 50 million people interacted 185 million times via posts, comments and Likes during the game. As Sherman said, “don’t you open your mouth about the best!” Even the Huffington Post jumped on that emotional proclamation, coming up with “36 Reasons Seattle Not Only Won the Super Bowl, But Also Wins at Life.”
Boom!

 

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