Atlanta’s winning playbook to land Super Bowl LIII in February 2019 featured many of the same elements you hear city officials tout when trying to bring new businesses here: The world’s busiest airport, downtown’s many attractions, shoutouts to the Beltline, the city’s nightlife and culture.
That “Atlanta Transformed” video shown to NFL owners also had this key line from its distinguished narrator, former mayor and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young: “Just a stone’s throw from here is Midtown, a booming hub filled with high-tech pioneers.”
For those working to market Atlanta’s tech startups, the words lifted their spirits faster than a Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones Hail Mary pass.
Yet, those “pioneers,” and the rest of Atlanta’s tech community, didn’t just help convince NFL owners to bring Super Bowl LIII to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They now have three years to take advantage of the white-hot spotlights that will come to the city for one of the world’s major sporting events.
“I don’t think you can ignore that one of the reasons we got the Super Bowl bid in the first place is because a lot of the narrative that’s coming out of Atlanta is that it’s a tech hub,” said Kate Atwood, vice president of marketing for the aggressive ChooseATL campaign, a multi-organizational effort to attract businesses. “There’s a reason that these Super Bowls are chosen three, four years out. We now have this big crescendo moment where our young people and city and tech scene will have the global stage, so it’s on us to start that journey now.”
Nobody knows what exact steps will be involved in that journey, but it’s agreed that Super Bowl LIII represents the mother of all marketing opportunities for Atlanta’s tech sector. “I am quite certain I will be pleasantly surprised by the innovation shown by the tech community in response to the event,” said Thomas Cunningham, senior vice president and economist for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. ” I don’t know how they’re going to pitch their stuff, but I’m certain something clever will happen.”
Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council, was part of the team making the Super Bowl bid in Charlotte this week. He told Hypepotamus that there would be plenty of opportunities coming from a single event that is expected to generate $400 million in economic impact.
That impact for tech startups in particular “probably remains to be seen,” Corso said. “The technology involved here seems to change daily, but I’m sure they’re looking for ways to engage.”
Inside the stadium, most of the next-level technology involving network connectivity and a state-of-the-art circular video board is already spoken for, but “outside the stadium, there may be multiple benefits for technology companies at all levels,” Corso said. “They haven’t identified themselves yet, but it’s another example of how the entire community can get involved in a major sporting event.”
Cunningham believes that most of the high visibility tech-related conventions that come to Atlanta are better venues for startups. But what about technologies that apply to the leisure/hospitality industries that stand to gain the most from the Super Bowl? “A lot of the fintech companies, and some of the B-to-C (businesses) here all have an opportunity to get involved, to make some kind of showcase statement, but again, it’s idiosyncratic. There’s a big mobile tech community here, so I expect them to be out in force.”
Cunningham mentioned that the construction boom now underway in Midtown’s Tech Square should be completed by Super Bowl LIII. Atwood said the area will be a big part of the economic story that Atlanta will tell to the world then.
“This greatly improves our ability to leverage content,” she said. “You are now getting to expose more eyeballs to the work we’re doing so close to this big global stage. “From Midtown to downtown over the next three years will become much more vibrant. All of that growth is happening very fast.”
Both Atwood and the “Atlanta Transformed” video cite the 1996 Olympics as helping put the city on the map as an international, cosmopolitan destination, not just a regional metropolis. For the city’s millennials, this Super Bowl will be their Olympics, she said.
“We haven’t had this kind of catalytic moment on the global stage since 2000,” the last time Atlanta hosted a Super Bowl. “We’re now looking at a generation that is the largest in the workforce. They’re shaping things in a totally different way. So how cool is that going to be?
“I would say to the young tech startups: You’ve just been give the most fertile ground to really make your mark. I think it’s up to those who are the hungriest.”
Choose ATL traveled to what is essentially enemy territory – Austin, Texas – to talk up Atlanta’s tech scene charms at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive festival. So what plans does it have to seize this championship moment?
“Those plans aren’t set yet,” she said with a laugh. “We’re not able to share them, but we are already thinking that way. This gives us a point where we can all work towards.”