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The Super Bowl

Are you ready for some football? Put another way, are you ready to watch one of our nation’s most iconic hybrid events? That’s what we’ll all experience when the Rams meet the Bengals at SoFi Stadium this Sunday. With fans participating both in the stadium and virtually, the Super Bowl has a lot to teach us about delivering a great experience to audiences wherever they are.

We’ve been talking about hybrid events a lot these past two years like they’re something new. In reality, the NFL has been giving fans a hybrid experience—the same content to different audiences in different locations in different ways—for a long time. They now do it so well that many would say the virtual, at-home Super Bowl experience far exceeds being there in person.

Think about how you experience the game from home or at a party. To start, you get to choose among several viewing options, from traditional network distribution to streaming services delivered to your preferred device.

You also reap the benefits of multiple cameras and their stellar close-ups, not the least of which is the amazing NFL SkyCam. You get to hear something other than Journey’s greatest hits and the screaming fans in your section: the refs calls, the announcers’ play-by-play, the friend sitting next to you.

Then there’s the broadcast production: the pre-game show, the singing of the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful” and the half-time show. You have a front-row seat to all of it. And let’s not forget the commercials. For many, they are the best part of the game. In what other setting does “a word from our sponsors” garner such rapt attention and post-event buzz?

Another engaging element is acting the part of a football fan. There’s a good chance you’re wearing team gear, especially if your guys are on the field. You might be playing Super Bowl bingo or making friendly wagers on the game. The difference is you’re a lot more comfortable, and you can interact with more people.

Even if you indulge just once a year, you’re probably eating and drinking stadium fare: beer, chips and dip, nachos and wings. This year, Goldbelly is taking this concept up a notch by shipping local restaurant favorites across the U.S. Wherever they are, Bengals fans can get their beloved Skyline Chili, and Rams fans can enjoy Kogi’s “Home Run” vegan ballpark dogs. We do love our traditions, and they don’t have to be sacrificed when we’re not at the live event.

What can marketers and event planners learn from the Super Bowl? For me, experiencing the virtual version of the event challenges the conventional wisdom that the in-person part of a hybrid event will always be better. When you take the time to understand your distinct audiences, you can create experiences that exceed everyone’s expectations, not just for those in the room. Or the stadium.