The Super Bowl became much more than a mere game long ago. Its transformation from sporting event to cultural icon has rendered the pairing for the NFL’s championship match-up almost secondary. No matter who gets there, we’ll watch.
Even with the place the NFL and Super Bowl hold in the national consciousness, there are still some teams in the current playoff field that would produce a more attractive match-up than others, say ticket experts.
“Without a doubt it would be Packers-Steelers. That’s my pick,” eSeats,com CEO Bob Bernstein told TicketNews. The pairing would be a rematch of last year’s Bowl, which Green Bay won 31-25.
“Both those teams have broad support across the country,” Bernstein said. “They have fan bases that travel even in the soft economy. It would give it a good buzz on the secondary market. I think you’re looking at a ‘get-in’ of about $2,250 to $2,500 with those two.”
But if the current seeding holds up, the NFC No. 1 Packers would meet the AFC No. 1 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on February 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. That would pit likely MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Packers against two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady in a marquee quarterback match-up.
Still, a top seed is no guarantee of reaching the Super Bowl. In fact, in the past six years, as many teams that played on Wild Card weekend (five) as No. 1 seeds (five) have made it to the big game.
“In years past, we’ve assumed the ‘hottest’ Super Bowls from a ticketing perspective would be from top 10 markets,” Joellen Ferrer, spokesperson for StubHub.com, told TicketNews. “However that’s certainly not the case, as the event is the crown jewel on StubHub year after year, regardless of the team.”
A San Francisco 49ers-Patriots pairing would match the country’s No. 6 TV market against No. 7. The New York Giants, from the nation’s top TV market, also loom large. However, some brokers say that, with the game in Indianapolis, a good match-up would come down to the first law of real estate: location, location, location.
“Off the top, you think of the closest proximity to Indy, and that’s Steelers-Packers,” TicketCity.com COO Zach Anderson told TicketNews. “That’s a car trip, and whenever that’s a possibility, that kind of raises the stakes. Think about the Steelers in Detroit a few years ago [for Super Bowl XL], and all the fans they brought with them.”
Mike Peduto, owner of Circle City Tickets in the host city of Indianapolis, said a match-up of teams from close-by would do no favors for the local economy. “That’d be terrible for hotel rooms,” he told TicketNews. “People wouldn’t come up until the weekend, and not spend all week here.”
While Peduto is excited for Indy’s first-ever Super Bowl, particularly after the Indianapolis Colts’ 2-14 season, this year’s site could end up being a drawback for some ticket sellers.
“Frankly, it’s drawn a lot less interest than when it’s at other sites,” New York ticket broker Jason Berger, president of AllShows.com, told TicketNews. Berger, of course, is rooting for his hometown Giants.
“Obviously, Giants-Patriots would be really great for us. Usually rematches don’t do as well, but it would be better than most of the others,” Berger said, referencing the fact that the Giants ruined the Patriots’ perfect season in Super Bowl XLII. “Giants-Steelers would be excellent as well.”
Other ticket experts weighed a potential pairing with the New Orleans Saints, coming off an eight-game winning streak and featuring record-breaking quarterback Drew Brees. But while those stats make them formidable on the field, the same is not necessarily true at the gate.
“The Saints are a great team with a great player,” Peduto said. “I just don’t know if they have the kind of fan base that’s going to come up here for the game and leave New Orleans for Indianapolis.”
In fact, Anderson recalled that when the Saints reached the Super Bowl for the first time two years ago against the Colts in Miami, many of their fans chose to stay in New Orleans. That left many from outside the area to travel to the Big Easy to watch the game.
“The Saints have become one of America’s darlings,” Anderson said. “When they were in it in Miami, you had a lot of people that didn’t want to go to the game, but wanted to be in New Orleans when the game was going on just to soak up the atmosphere.”
Of course, the Saints were underdogs who went on to win big. So do this season’s longshots — such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans and Denver Broncos — have brokers excited?
“Don’t discount the Bengals even though they’re a long shot,” Peduto said. “They have decent fans. It’s just that they’ve been so bad for so long.”
Meanwhile, the rise of the Broncos behind polarizing quarterback Tim Tebow has been one of this season’s most compelling storylines. But a Cinderella run by the Broncos doesn’t look likely, given their three-game losing streak going into the playoff opener against the Steelers.
“Tim Tebow obviously is going to appeal to a lot of people,” Anderson said. “I don’t know if he’s going to get there this year, but that would be a great story if his magic can somehow continue.”
And Peduto doesn’t see Tebow boosting ticket sales for the big game: “A lot of people love Tim Tebow, [but] I don’t know how many are going to pay $2,500 to see him in a Super Bowl.”
While everyone has their favorite pairing. But Berger mentioned one least-favorite that might make both brokers and executives at NBC, which is televising the game, shudder.
“Ravens-Falcons,” Berger said. “Around our office the joke is that match-up would be for the birds.”