The Weather Channel will be flooding the zone leading up to this year's Super Bowl, with more than 200 people covering the weather forecast leading up to and during the big game, in a push the network is calling "The Weather Bowl."
Eric Hadley, the senior V.P. of sales strategy and marketing for The Weather Company, which owns The Weather Channel, described a push at the network lasting from the N.F.C. and A.F.C. Championships through the Super Bowl itself. Jim Cantore, who is best known for his live coverage of headliner hurricanes, tornadoes and other big storms, and new recruit Sam Champion, whom the Weather Channel poached from ABC's "Good Morning America" earlier this month, will be on site at MetLife Stadium.
The whole thing is premised on a bet that the first cold-weather Super Bowl in National Football League history will generate interest in the elements from viewers. With a high probability of low temperatures, and a distinct possibility of snow, weather could be a big factor in the big game.
Fans in attendance at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey will be getting an amenity kit with hand warmers, gloves, tissues and lip balm. And the N.F.L. is even developing a game plan in the event of serious weather, ranging from a machine that can clear a parking lot of snow in a few hours, to moving the game to Saturday or Monday if the situation requires it.
“The Super Bowl has become much more than just the game, it is the weekend, it is the week leading up to it,” Hadley said. “How does it affect the halftime show? How does it affect fans? Then there are the hundreds of thousands of people coming to New York, how do they get there? What is the Super Bowl experience taking over Time Square going to be like?”
Weather is also trying to get a piece of the Fantasy Football pie, by going deep on statistics. How each of the two Super Bowl teams perform in different weather conditions will be a part of the coverage. On its digital platforms like Weather.com and the Weather Channel apps, the company will be going beyond forecasts to provide in-depth statistics on how each of the players perform in the cold, or if necessary, in the snow. For fantasy fanatics or hardcore fans, it is information that will probably be lapped up.
“If there are two teams playing in an outdoor stadium in a blizzard, how the players or teams perform will have a bigger impact,” Hadley said.
Advertisers are eager to be associated with anything Super Bowl-related, even if it has little to do with actual game. Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl” has become one of its big programming success stories, so much so that Hallmark Channel is counter programming with a “Kitten Bowl.” "Puppy Bowl" features two teams of adorable puppies playing in a faux-football game. It started as something of a lark for Animal Planet in 2005, but last year drew an average of over 2.6 million viewers.
In the case of the “Weather Bowl,” tire company Michelin is on board as a sponsor of Weather’s coverage, and the company is talking to others about partnering as well.
“The Super Bowl is a huge draw, but it is incredibly expensive and it typically sells out,” Hadley said, noting the $4+ million cost for a 30-second ad. “The conversations we have been having with partners have been ‘what are alternative ways to connect to the Weather Bowl?’ And what are more affordable ways?”
The Weather Company isn’t the only player in this game, though it is certainly the largest. AccuWeather, one of its top competitors, has built a website called WillItSnow.com, which is updated every day with the latest predictions from their meteorologists, and a countdown to kickoff. Fox, which has the national broadcast rights, is also planning weather coverage around the big game, a staffer tells Capital, although exact plans are still being worked out.
Weather’s big advantage is in its breadth and depth. It can cover weather more deeply than traditional TV outlets can, while weather.com and the Weather Channel apps reach more people in any given day than most TV networks can.
“No matter what it is going to be an exciting game, but if we get a big blizzard, it would be something we have never seen before,” Hadley said.
Weather has taken this approach to news events before. It sent meteorologists and correspondents across the country for the 2012 Presidential election. After all, a snowstorm would probably keep people from the voting booths.
The advantage that the Super Bowl has, even over the 2012 election, is that an enormous chunk of America will be tuning in.
An average of 67 million people watched some or all of the 2012 Presidential election across all of the broadcast and cable channels, but the last two Super Bowls were seen by an average of 108 million and 111 million people, respectively.
That's a lot of eyeballs.