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Blugold helps Minnesota shine as host of Super Bowl LII

| Judy Berthiaume

In case you haven’t heard, Minneapolis will be hosting a party this winter … well, actually a whole lot of parties.

The guest lists will include the NFL’s top two football teams, about a million fans and 5,000 media folks from around the world.

It’s all part of the hoopla that comes with Minneapolis hosting Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018, bringing the most-watched annual event in the world to Minnesota for the first time since 1992.

So how do you pull off a 10-day celebration that puts your city on the world’s largest stage?

You hire a Blugold to help you raise more than $50 million in private monies so you can do it right.

Britt Carlson, who graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1998 with a degree in marketing, is a member of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, the entity responsible for planning Super Bowl LII festivities and logistics, and acting as a liaison between the NFL, the city of Minneapolis, the state of Minnesota and the local communities.

“My role, specifically, is to raise the money needed to offset the costs of hosting the game, which is approximately $50 million, all through private corporate partnerships — no public money,” Carlson says. “We will draw one million-plus fans during the 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl and 5,000 global media, which creates an unprecedented opportunity for Minnesota companies to capture the Super Bowl spotlight.”

While she and others on the host committee will meet the needs of the NFL and work to create an experience that raises the bar for future Super Bowl host cities, they are most anxious to use their platform to bring worldwide attention to the state of Minnesota, Carlson says.

“We’re excited to have people experience our restaurants, hotels, theaters, music, comedy scene, arts, sports, winter activities and more,” Carlson says. “This is an incredibly diverse, active and innovative market and we look forward to sharing our story using this global stage.”

A Minnesota native, Carlson says she is thrilled to play a part in introducing the world to her home state.

“I’m proud to be a Minnesotan and have always loved showing people around the Twin Cities for their first time,” Carlson says. “Some people come with expectations of visiting a place that resembles something out of ‘Grumpy Old Men’ or ‘Fargo’ and by the time they are on their flight home, they’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in the country and experienced our cosmopolitan nightlife and incredible live music, theater, comedy and arts. We have companies that are changing the world when it comes to agriculture, food, banking and health care, and dozens more that are leaders in their industries.

“And shoot, we will always have Prince to claim as one of our own. And, yes, we’ll celebrate him plenty during the festivities.”

While Prince’s music and "Minnesota nice" locals will warm visitors, some fear the Midwest’s winter weather could throw a wet (and cold) blanket on even the best-planned festivities.

Not going to happen, says Carlson.

“We said from day one that we’re not going to apologize or shy away from the weather,” Carlson says. “It’s February in Minnesota and it will probably be cold, so we’re preparing to show the world exactly why we love the Bold North, especially during the winter.”

Organizers are planning 10 days of events and activities — all free and open to the public —in an area they call Super Bowl LIVE, which will be located along Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.

Super Bowl LIVE will feature an outdoor concert series curated by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

It also will temporarily house the Birkebeiner Bridge from the popular cross-country ski race in Hayward, Wisconsin, providing a backdrop for snowmobiling, skiing and dog-sled racing, as well as ice bars and huge fireplaces.

“We’ll celebrate winter along with football by having the NFL jerseys encased in ice, warming benches and football-shaped walk-in snow globes,” Carlson says. “These are just a few of the tricks up our sleeve. 

“So, while I’m of course excited for the game itself, and hopefully to be the first home market to have our team play in the game, I’m almost more excited for people to experience the many activities, parties and events that will be taking place all over the Twin Cities.”

To pay for all the fun and festivities, Carlson and her colleagues have spent several years raising $50 million in private sponsorships, a number that will likely continue to grow in the two months remaining before game day.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have so many Minnesota companies get behind this event and now that we’re just about to cross the goal line — see what I did there — of our fundraising efforts, the focus shifts full time into activating the sponsorships that we’ve signed,” Carlson says. “It’s crucially important to us that we over-deliver on the expectations of our sponsors.”

Carlson already knows all about over-delivering and exceeding expectations.

Before joining the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, she spent 10 years working in marketing in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings and 10 years working in marketing in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Being part of the Minnesota Super Bowl planning team was a natural next step, Carlson says, noting that it also is preparing her for new career opportunities down the road.

“When the opportunity to be a part of hosting the Super Bowl in my home market presented itself, I jumped at the chance,” Carlson says. “It felt like a perfect fit with my network and background. It also provided an opportunity to gain experience outside of a team setting and on a much larger scale in event planning, sponsorship and brand activation. We have tremendous leadership and I’ve learned so much from the diverse backgrounds of my colleagues.”

So how did a Blugold make her way into the highly competitive world of professional sports marketing?

Hard work, stepping outside her comfort zone and finding her passion, she says.

“I never wanted to punch a clock,” Carlson says of her career goals when graduating from UW-Eau Claire nearly 20 years ago. “My goal was less about having to work in sports and more about immersing myself in something every day that I felt passionate about, which just turned out to be sports.

“I love where the business of sports is headed, which is away from simply having companies engage in traditional sponsorship with signs and ads, but instead connecting brands to the game in a way that enhances the experience for fans. Nothing is stagnant and as soon as it’s been done, there needs to be something better. To me, that is really exciting to be in the middle of.”

She would encourage current Blugolds to follow her lead by figuring out what matters most to them as they consider their first and future jobs.

“It’s really important to have a very solid grasp on what matters to you as a whole person,” Carlson says. “What are the things that make you who you are? For me, that is my boyfriend and his kids, our parents, my close circle of friends, my career, my health and hobbies that I enjoy. When I make decisions, I think about how they will impact each of those areas of my life, both short and long term.”

UW-Eau Claire, she says, prepared her well to achieve her professional and personal goals.

“I loved my time spent in Eau Claire,” Carlson says. “I studied marketing and finance, and while the latter was really challenging for me, having a basic foundation has allowed me to speak the same language as CFOs, and be able to better communicate and understand some of the more complex issues relating to accounting, budgets, forecasting, taxes and more.”

While her overall UW-Eau Claire education gave her the strong business and liberal arts foundation she needs to be successful, she is especially thankful for one class in particular, Carlson says.

“People who know me would be surprised to learn that as a young adult I was terrified of speeches and nervous about ever having a spotlight on me,” says Carlson. “While at UWEC, I pushed out of my comfort zone and signed up for a public speaking course. In the first month, I would take as many note cards up to the podium with me as possible and with a shaking voice, I’d stumble my way through a two-minute speech, nearly blacking out as I would talk.

“By the time we made our final speech, I had not only overcome the terror of looking out at an audience that was staring right back at me, I figured out how to connect with them and started to create a presenting style that was my own. To this day, there is no skill that has been more beneficial to me since presenting to small and large groups is now a significant part of what I do.”

So what comes after the Super Bowl for Carlson?

“A nap. A vacation. Maybe a little mountain climbing,” Carlson says. “I live between Portland and Minneapolis, and while this project has really grounded me in Minnesota, I need to be more mobile as I go forward. Either I’ll start consulting and taking on projects or I’ll find a company where I can do my work remotely. I love helping build businesses, relationships, revenue streams, and my history has had me doing that using sports and entertainment so I will do some version of that.

“I spent a decade working 60-70 hours a week and, while I loved my career, other areas of my life took a back burner. It doesn’t matter who you are, we all have 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Today, there is nothing more important to me than time and learning to say no to things or people that don’t positively contribute to my priority buckets.”

While she is looking ahead to her future, there is still much to be done before Super Bowl Sunday, Carlson says.

After all, this Blugold has 10 days of Super Bowl festivities to pull together, a million guests to entertain and an estimated 100 million viewers around the world to impress.

Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire grad and Minnesota native Britt Carlson (right) is part of the host committee that is raising money and planning events around the Feb. 4 Super Bowl LII that will take place in Minneapolis.