Well, somehow they've done it again: Tom Brady and the Patriots won another Super Bowl Title. Whether you're happy, sad, or indifferent, we can all agree Super Bowl LI was nothing short of spectacular. Since the Patriots have left Houston with a shiny new trophy, hundreds of local diverse businesses concluded the NFL postseason with a boost in their business. These diverse suppliers were able to benefit from one of the world's most popular events thanks to an NFL initiative called the Business Connect Program.
What Is Business Connect?
Business Connect is an NFL supplier diversity program designed to increase opportunities for Minority-Owned (MBE), Women-Owned (WBE), Veteran-Owned (VBE), and LGBT-Owned (LGBTE) business enterprises to bid on contracts related to the Super Bowl. The goal, then, is to promote qualified, experienced and certified local enterprises in each host city that can provide event services for the Super Bowl. Business Connect accomplishes this goal by publishing an online database of approved businesses that Super Bowl contractors and event producers, including the NFL, use to identify local business partners. Moreover, there are several professional development workshops and networking events available to those qualified suppliers who are accepted into the program. These events are tremendous drivers for local diverse business; they not only grow business capacity but also increase contracting opportunities post-Super Bowl.
Growing with Business Connect
This past year the game was hosted by Houston and the Business Connect program pulled in a total of 417 local certified businesses. Participating in the program, although competitive, can have an enormous impact on a business. According to a CNN news report, OMG Baked Potatoes, a food truck and catering business putting a unique spin on baked potatoes, has already seen immense growth. After being accepted, husband-and-wife owners Ayesha and Joseph James secured a catering contract with NFL Super Bowl event coordinator Party Planners West.
Party Planners West hired OMG Baked Potatoes to serve NFL executives on game day. Additionally, the entrepreneurs drove their mobile restaurant to NFL events during the 10-day series of pre-Super Bowl events. While the jury is still out on NFL executive food reviews, the results speak for themselves: “Our business has grown tremendously,” Ayesha told CNN. “We just hired five new chefs and just purchased two more food trucks.”
Dialing a few years back we can observe another success story: Shane Connor, Hispanic owner of Advanced Technologies in Electrical and Communications (ATEC). Starting in 2012, Connor’s company, being recognized as an experienced and event-ready supplier, was given the opportunity to participate in Indianapolis-hosted Super Bowl XLVI through Business Connect. His first contract was partnering with a company to set up fiber optic cable for the big game. After scoring a touchdown with that first job, he’s worked in every Super Bowl since. "The program was the catalyst for growing my business," he said. "All the relationships I now have, I definitely attribute to the program." During his company's first Super Bowl appearance, ATEC had an annual revenue of $1 million. Now it’s making $6.5 million. Connor told CNN, "As a kid you dream of playing the Super Bowl. I'm not a football player, but that doesn't mean I wasn't a huge success at the Super Bowl -- I did everything my job required to succeed."
How Does a Supplier Qualify?
As briefly mentioned above, the first qualification is that a supplier must be a certified diverse business. This means they not only need to be at least 51% owned in one of the certification categories (MBE, WBE, VBE, LGBTE), the supplier must also be certified by the corresponding certification agency. Additionally, the business must be experienced in providing event services, be locally headquartered or have an office in the area, and have been in operation for at least 3 years.
After the qualifications have been met a supplier must apply and be accepted. Through the acceptance process, Business Connect puts high priority on local diverse businesses with premiere event experience in specific business categories. The Minnesota Super Bowl Committee plans to accept 300-400 businesses for Super Bowl LII, so apply early if you qualify and have the proper experience.
If accepted, local businesses can expect to be profiled in the Business Connect resource guide, invited to quarterly educational workshops and events, as well as given access to additional resources and networking opportunities. Beyond suppliers’ first Super Bowl, the professional development and networking opportunities can be the most beneficial, long-term experiences for a company, as proven by ATEC.
If a supplier isn’t located in Minnesota, they need not fear. The NFL rotates where the championship is held each year. The next declared locations after Minneapolis include: Atlanta (2019); Miami (2020); and Los Angeles (2021). Suppliers should be sure to double-check eligibility requirements each year and evaluate if they have the proper experience to handle such an event. As we saw with Shane Connor and ATEC, all a supplier needs is an opportunity to prove themselves, then they can score.