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Experiential

NFL Makes a Play for Times Square

Karina Masolova, karina@plainlanguagemedia.com

The NFL Experience is now open in Times Square, New York City. The permanent exhibit joins a host of new branded offerings that are helping make Times Square relevant again—including National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical.

The $30 million venture is one of the first of its kind, powered by a partnership between the NFL, Cirque du Soleil, the NFLPA, and the Witkoff Group. Cirque is a managing investor—the company has also developed the Michael Jackson, Avatar, and other IP. And the NFL’s headquarters are just 5 blocks away—when I was there,

The experience takes up 40,000 sq. ft. of real estate over 4 floors—and I was invited to tour the attraction. All 32 teams are represented (although, perhaps naturally, local teams like the Giants and Jets feature more heavily in the gift shop). The experience took me approximately an hour and a half, and it is designed to be non-stop adrenaline. Guests are led through a structured tour that is meant to represent their journey as the fan who steps into the shoes of their favorite player—as they are in the training room, in a game, and then, finally, with a ring on their finger.

The crown jewel of the experience is The Stadium, a 4D ride that combines an NFL Films creation with interactive elements, courtesy of Cirque—motion seats, a snow machine, and (apparently) aromas. As NFL Experience’s President, Daniel Boockvar, describes it—”We want every kid to come out of that saying, ‘Daddy, I want to ride that again!'” The 10 minute show shouldn’t have a hard time accomplishing that—it’s a non-stop grab at generating as much adrenaline as possible.

While it is billed as a wholesome experience for the entire family, the rest of the experience isn’t quite geared towards kids. Adults in the group can test their physical fitness in the equipment room with blocking dummies, vertical jump tests, and a quarterback challenge where you can try to pass a football. It’s a genuine workout—even though Boockvar said that the team didn’t add scent to the equipment room, even before opening the experience smelled genuine.

For those who don’t want to get so hands-on, the experience has a lot of photo opportunities—authentic club and player memorabilia (like, all of the Super Bowl rings) are displayed everywhere, as well as computer-generated interactive displays where guests can suit up or celebrate winning the Super Bowl.

At the end, what should have been the biggest highlight—the gift shop—was oddly disappointing. The shop shares a floor with a number of food and beverage providers, including authentic concessions offerings on a rotating menu (at authentic stadium prices). The location also has a liquor license and features a sports bar where fans can enjoy a scenic view of Times Square as well as current games.

Major licensees represented (including exclusive NFL Experience-branded goods) include, in alphabetical order:

  • Boelter Brands
  • Dooney & Bourke
  • Dynasty Drink
  • Fanatics
  • Foco
  • Forever Collectibles
  • Highland Mint
  • Jarden
  • Little Earth Productions
  • M&M
  • Mizco Intl.
  • Myron Cope
  • New Era Cap
  • Panini
  • Pro Specialties Group
  • Rawlings
  • Riddel
  • The Licensed Products Co.
  • Wilson
  • WinCraft
  • Winning Streak Sports

In other words—Compared to the official NFL store, not much.

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