Relentless snow and -15 degree temperatures. These are the conditions endured by the 105,491 fans at the 2014 Bridgestone Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Michigan; certainly not for the faint of heart! I am happy to say that I was lucky enough to be a part of this fan base, and was able to experience this record breaking event first hand.
According to sportsbusinessdaily.com, the attendance numbers were not the only records being broken at this event. The entire major sponsor inventory was sold prior to October 21 with only a few local opportunities available to be filled. The number of partners that signed on, as well as the sponsorship revenue exceed all past Winter Classic events as well as the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
On the 4.5 hour return bus trip from Ann Arbor to the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel (with good weather and traffic the trip should take 40 minutes) I had plenty of time to really soak in the event and even took the opportunity to ask some friends about the sponsors they noticed and remembered. Many of them asked the same question, “What exactly is a sponsorship”. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to find out what activations, signage and logos they remembered as I knew they weren’t intentionally engaged. The resounding response was in reference to the number of times the Bridgestone and Geico commercials aired on the video board. Overall the results were very interesting. When comparing the list of sponsors mentioned by my peers and the brands various levels of sponsorship and activations, it was very much in line with the amount they were featured on the video board.
During the second intermission I had an interaction with 3 American Red Wings fans in the concourse while waiting in line for a U.S. ballpark staple, bratwurst. It was a little overpriced, but I digress. They asked where I am from and when they found out I live in Toronto, one of them actually asked (a little slurred I might add) “Do you ACTUALLY own a Scotiabank Visa/debit card?” An American can’t purchase one of these credit/debit cards, but the fact that he mentioned this without any persuasion proved that it was a successful campaign.
Overall, this is without a doubt the best sporting event I have had the chance to attend. The success of the event proves how great the city of Detroit really can be. I would like to send congratulations to the volunteers, and the staff that braved the bitter temperatures with a smile, as well as everyone responsible for bringing the SiriusXM Winter Festival to Downtown Detroit and the Bridgestone Winter Classic to Ann Arbor.