At most casino resorts next week, football fans will gather for “the big game.” It almost sounds like some kind of a safari.
But for the first time ever, those attending events at Caesars Entertainment Inc. properties will enjoy official Super Bowl parties.
At 15 properties across the nationwide Caesars empire, the company will break out 16,000 Super Bowl shirts and hats, NFL wall decor and ice sculptures, wristbands, cookies and all sorts of gear featuring the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams logos.
It’s all a result of Caesars’ surprising Jan. 3 announcement of a first-ever national casino agreement with the NFL. The multiyear agreement gives Caesars the right to use NFL marks and logos in casino promotions.
Caesars intends to use the agreement to develop a premier role when Las Vegas hosts the NFL draft in 2020 as well as for the city’s preparation for the arrival of the Raiders that year.
In addition to the NFL deal, Caesars has separate agreements with the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles as well as the Raiders.
Go to the Caesars website and you’ll see the NFL shield standing out like the Fearsome Foursome. The website even calls Caesar “the original G.O.A.T.,” as in Greatest of All Time, a title usually applied to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The company has also busted out a #LIKEACAESAR hashtag.
Caesars Palace and The Linq Hotel are expected to have the biggest Las Vegas Super Bowl parties. Across the country, Caesars will offer a customized Super Bowl 53 Caesars Reward Card and will hold drawings for tickets to next year’s Super Bowl in Miami.
The environment will be in stark contrast to 2003, when the NFL clamped down on casinos using “Super Bowl” in their promotions. The league issued cease-and-desist letters forbidding casinos from projecting the game on big screens in their properties and from charging admission to football parties.
When the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority attempted to buy time to broadcast one of its then-new “What Happens Here, Stays Here” TV spots, the NFL rejected them.
“We bought local stations in the network,” recalled Billy Vassiliadis, whose R&R Partners produced the award-winning ads.
“We couldn’t buy Super Bowl spots, but some of the local stations let us in. That upset the NFL. They sent out these really tough letters to the gamers reminding them of whose broadcast rights they are,” he said. “It was some really ominous language implying that maybe we’d lose some rebroadcast rights. So we stopped. We started behaving better.”
Once news organizations nationwide learned that the NFL was banning Las Vegas ads, it became a huge story about NFL hypocrisy. Las Vegas ended up getting more publicity with the controversy than it ever could have gotten with one Super Bowl spot.
The funny thing was that the ad that spurred the controversy had nothing to do with gambling or the resorts. It was about a limousine passenger who loved the new-car smell of her vehicle during her Las Vegas limo ride. It had less than a second of a fleeting glimpse of the Golden Nugget’s neon sign and no casino imagery.
Today’s LVCVA ads are all about showing every aspect of the Las Vegas experience, including gambling.
Vassiliadis thinks a combination of things led to the change in attitude over 16 years. He cited the expansion of casino gaming nationwide, the explosive popularity of NFL-backed fantasy football games, the tenacity of Southern Nevada leaders to build an NFL-quality stadium and the boldness of a maverick team like the Raiders to be the first to explore moving to Las Vegas.
There’s still work to be done.
The NFL wants to ban some of those popular proposition wagers that make the Super Bowl special, and there are still differences in how the league wants to see gambling overseen nationwide.
But at least for now, won’t have quite as many “big game” references.