Far away from the practice fields at Long Beach and Irvine, the team hotels in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, the media headquarters hard by the Los Angeles Airport, the real heavy hitters associated with the Super Bowl have gathered this week to do business.
NFL Properties - the marketing and licensing area of the National Football League - is expecting more than 30 representatives of America's most prestigious corporations for four-day business meetings at the Wilshire Hyatt House in downtown Los Angeles.
The Super Bowl is a money game for the alleged main participants - the Vikings and Raiders. But NFL, the game also is a financial extravaanza, and the signs of commercialization are everywhere, especially at the Wilshire Hyatt. NFLP has reserved 240 rooms at the hotel for the occasion, though a spokesman says each businessman picks up the tab. Still, some amenities will be provided by the eague. There will be several luncheons, a cocktail party or two and round-trip bus transportation to the game Sunday. And if someone wants to head off for Disneyland or Santa Anita that can be arranged, too.
Porperties also has bought 2,000 game tickets - there are no freebies at the Super Bowl, for anyone - and will make those available to its guests, as well. Again, the people at NFLPA insist, the $20 tickets will be paid by the companies - but don't count on it.
In essence, selling professional football amounts to an expense account bonanza for most of the participants. The people at NFLP, of course, see it a little differently.
"Our people are out here doing business," says Bob Bell, vice president in charge of marketing for FLP "I will have 22 meetings from Wednesday through Saturday with licensees, publishers, advertisers, promotion people.
"We are trying to set our plans for 1977. Our clients are solid businessmen. They know they're out here to make important business decisions. You can't be distracted by other things. The best way to describe it would be to say it has a heavy business orientation added into a very antique sporting event."
And so, the people who bring you those plastic dolls with the bobbing heads, the "I Like Billy" bumper stickersM the Baltimore Colt reading lamp, the tousands of offical NFL jerseys, caps, T-shirts, footballs, drinking glasses, clocks, etc., are all here. And so are representatives from Chrysler, Xerox, Magnavox and R.J. Reynolds, among others, some of the league's most generous advertisers genious.
According to Bell, NFLP takes in about $5 million a year from its various arms - the licensing end being the most successful. The profit after expenses for salaries, rent, etc., amount to about $500,000 a year, most of which, Bell adds proudly, is funneled into NFL charities.
But the corporaitons and firms represented here are hardly in the good works business. No, says Bob Carey, president of NFLP, the retail value of the product carrying the NFLP label amounts to about $80 million a year.
NFLP sels out the rights to produce a certain product, be it a warm-up jacket or a garage can, a team penant or a pair of socks.
The representative of one apparel company who asked not to be identified - why should I let my competitors know what I'm doing?" - says his firm pays between $7,500 and $10,000 for the initial licensing fee, and a loyal by fee of 5 per cent of each item based on the wholesale price.
This year, the NFLP royalty rate will rise from 5 to 6 per cent following a similar rise by Walt Disney Productions, one of the nation's largest licensing companies.
But the companies who deal with NFLP say they can afford to pay the extra 1 per cent because of the popularity of the products.
"Our sales go up every year," says Thomas Nippert, president of AscoM inc., in Winona, Minn., the firm that produces NFL buttons, pom-poms and bumper stickers. "The products are very popular. Anything connected with the NFL always seems to do well," he said.
"Yes, I'm coming to Los Angeles. I hope to sell a lot of our products. We don't have any involvement with the teams or anything like that.
"It's a business week, there is a licensing meeting I will attend on Friday. We'll discuss what happened last year, plans for this year, new product lines, things like that. This is not to go out and booze and play for a week. Maybe some guys do that. But for my company, this is an expensive trip.
"Yes, we'll enjoy the game on Sunday. They do some things for you. But it's one afternoon of play and a lot of work."
P.R. Mulligan Jr., president of Stabl-Urban in Brookhaven, Miss., the firm that makes warm-up jackets, adds that NFLP "really does take care of its licenses. If someone infringes on your license, they protect you, and that's very important to us. Yes, I'll be coming in for the meetings. Despite all the hoopla, we do get quite a bit accomplished."
"As far as Properties is concerned," says vicepresident Bell, "the Super Bowl is the perfect situation for a salesman. "We want people to promote with the NFL we want them to spend their advertising dollars with us. The game gives them the opportunity to get them all in one spot. They can all see and feel the excitement this game generates. It's very conductive to what we're trying to accomplish."
Apparently a lot of firms feel the same way. The signs of commercialization and professional football are everywhere.