So…The NFL Is In The Hospitality Business?

Is The NFL In The Hospitality Business?

While the Super Bowl and major NFL games continue to keep the football league’s brand shining in the United States, some exciting, under-the-radar activities could eventually give the brand a more global touch. Case in point is the NFL’s burgeoning hospitality business, which ran as a constituent of the organization for several years before its stakeholders finally decided to let it run as an independent unit.

This decision led to the founding of On Location Experiences, which is now seen as the most promising sports tourism company in the American — and possibly global — hospitality industry. The company specializes in customizing experiences for domestic and international sporting events, entertainment, and hospitality.

Here’s the executive summary: Since its establishment, On Location Experiences has become the official hospitality provider of the National Football League events, including the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, NFL Draft, and International Series Games in London.

On Location Experiences is jointly owned by:

  • Bruin Sports Capital, an equity investment firm founded by George Pyne, which focuses on investing in sports tourism
  • Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital Partners
  • 32 Equity, the entity that oversees NFL’s private equity investments,
  • Jon Bon Jovi, founder of the renowned rock band Bon Jovi

The deal for the new NFL hospitality company was inked last year, with Bruin Sports, RedBird Capital, and 32 Equity teaming up in April. Jon Bon Jovi joined in December.

As part of the deal, On Location Experiences acquired Runaway Tours, Jon Bon Jovi’s VIP hospitality business for premier music acts. This acquisition created a potentially lucrative new vertical for On Location Experiences, which has big plans to expand into the music and entertainment industries.

Long story short: The NFL’s new hospitality business appears to have brought on board all the necessary ingredients for success, including years of hard-won experience in sports and hospitality. Notably, Bruin Sports Capital’s George Pyne is the former president of IMG Media, one of the world’s leading sports tourism companies.

So…The NFL Is In The Hospitality Business?
[Gerry Cardinale RedBird Capital is a joint owner of NFL On Location-Image via RedBird Capital]
RedBird Capital’s Cardinale also brings a wealth of experience in the sports world — he’s renowned for bringing together the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys during his time with Goldman Sachs, for instance.

Following the announcement of the deal last year, Gerry Cardinale tooted his own horn a bit, saying, “[The NFL] could have had a choice of anybody. It’s not like the NFL hasn’t been running this business well for the last 10 years. They’ve set the bar extremely high.”

He added, “When we think about investing in sports, we look for opportunities where we can partner with iconic rights holders to help them create premium live event experiences for their fans. The NFL is clearly at the top of that list.”

Rounding out the success matrix is Jon Bon Jovi. On Location Experiences’ acquisition of Bon Jovi’s Runaway Tours clearly indicates that the NFL is interested in tapping the huge entertainment market, further expanding the company’s offerings.

To ensure that it’s consistently able to offer a wide, well-curated range of travel and tourism opportunities, On Location Experiences recently acquired Anthony Travel, the nation’s largest provider of sports and travel management services. The acquisition means On Location Experiences can now sell NFL tickets that can provide customers with the best seats, plus customized travel and hospitality arrangements, in bespoke, all-inclusive packages.

And, at least in theory, that means On Location Experiences will reduce its customers’ overall attendance costs — especially for high-profile, super expensive events like the Super Bowl. On Location Experiences’ economies of scale allow it to price its inclusive packages much lower than their sum of their component parts.

In May, NFL owners voted to allow On Location Experiences to sell 6,000 Super Bowl tickets, beginning in June. That came on the heels of 2015’s nine-year licensing deal, for which (per ESPN) the experiential hospitality business put down $55 million.

John Collins, the CEO of On Location Experiences, remarked on his fervent hope that the deal would “[help] provide transparency and clarity to a marketplace that frankly has been difficult [for fans] to navigate.” According to Collins, access to the Super Bowl’s $100 million-plus sales opportunity has been controlled by brokers for ages — a costly, outdated model.

On Location Experiences is clearly more transparent and affordable than the arrangement it aims to replace. It’s adding some tasty juice to the services and experiences it’s positioned to provide, thanks to its impressive roster of hospitality partners — not to mention the participation of some of the best business minds (and most colorful personalities) in the industry.

[Photo by David Goldman/AP Images]

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