A Deep Dive on the Super Bowl Media Circus
February 7, 2024
It has been reported that the NFL issued more than 6,000 media credentials for reporters from all over the world to cover this year’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas.
And while certainly many of the credentialed press will cover the actual game on Sunday between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, much of the media coverage actually takes place BEFORE the ball is even kicked off.
I worked my first Super Bowl back in 2012 as a club representative on the NFL’s game week PR staff, and went on to work two more Super Bowls in a similar capacity before having the privilege of working the big game for a participating team as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles PR staff in 2017.
And while each Super Bowl brought its own unique set of challenges and experiences, one thing remained consistent throughout – the Super Bowl is a media circus. And for those who are curious to learn more about that circus, here are a few scene-setters for what’s going on in Vegas this week BEFORE the big game.
Super Bowl Opening Night
With both teams typically arriving an entire week before the game (this year the Chiefs and 49ers arrived in Vegas on Sunday), media festivities officially ramp up during the NFL’s Opening Night on the Monday of game week.
Opening Night has grown over the years and has morphed into must see TV, as large swaths of press are free to roam around the designated venue with relatively unprecedented access to some of the game’s biggest stars. While each participating team designates approximately 10 players and their head coach to sanctioned off podiums, the other 60-plus players, coaches and team executives are all left to fend for themselves.
Super Bowl Opening Night has brought the world unforgettable moments like Marshawn Lynch’s infamous “I’m Just Here So I Won’t Get Fined” hour-long podium session and Tom Brady racking his brain to explain how to get Bill Belichick to smile – spoiler, the answer is to mention, “Navy, lacrosse, Lawrence Taylor or Bon Jovi.” And for perspective on the madness, check out this photo of how many media showed up to chat with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce on Monday night.
Then there is Radio Row…and just like Opening Night, anything goes at Radio Row. Featuring hundreds of local, national and international radio, TV and content creators lined up throughout a local expo space, the NFL’s Radio Row is packed with big name athletes and entertainers all week. One moment you’ll see Joe Montana sitting down with ESPN Australia and the next you’ll run straight into an actor like Jim Carey or Jeremy Piven who has just stepped off NFL Network’s live set. In fact, Radio Row has turned into such a big event that the NFL actually issues passes for fans to come observe the spectacle from designated areas within the venue.
Participating Team Media Obligations
From a participating team perspective, managing the media circus is a whole other beast.
At the beginning of each NFL season, broadcast partners like CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC and Amazon have the chance to travel to each team’s facility and take staged photos and videos of key players for broadcast use. It’s a heavy lift and usually takes months of planning for teams to pull off.
Pay attention to the pregame and in-game coverage on Sunday night and you’ll likely see stylized shots of players in uniform featuring this year’s Super Bowl patch…and while you might assume those patches are just super-imposed over the photos taken back in the summer, the reality is that each team conducts sit-down interviews and uniformed specialty photo shoots both before arriving in the Super Bowl city and backstage at Super Bowl Opening Night prior to even stepping behind a mic.
Then there are the daily press conference and media availabilities. Unlike a typical regular-season week when local beat writers have access to team locker rooms for more intimate and nuanced conversations, each team has a designated media area at or near their hotel where they gather each day to meet with the 6,000-plus credentialed press. Fun fact, during Super Bowl LII in Minnesota, the Patriots and Eagles stayed on opposite ends of the Mall of America and our designated media room was an unleased store in the mall.
With all of the general availability ending on Friday afternoon, teams are left to wrap up with the Super Bowl team photo and network production meetings before FINALLY being able to turn their attention to the No. 1 goal…actually winning Sunday’s game.
And if you are fortunate to win the big game, the circus continues with unprecedented on-field and locker room access, 5 am live hits from the hotel lobby for Monday morning shows, MVP press conferences and then plane ride back home for more media and a Super Bowl parade.
Don’t think I mentioned practice once yet, did I? All that’s to say that the players and coaches have a lot going on this week, so don’t be surprised if it takes a few minutes to knock the rust off in the first quarter.