Super Bowl LII -- that's 52 for you non-Romans -- will be an immense deal for Minnesota, whether you care about football or not. The attention of the national media will be on the Twin Cities and Minnesota for at least a week, culminating in the game itself, almost as an afterthought, on Feb. 4.
And just imagine if somehow the Vikings are on the U.S. Bank Stadium field that day. Just imagine -- it doesn't cost anything.
What's not free is hosting the game. Host cities need to raise and spend millions for all the related events, to make sure the game goes off without a hitch and to maximize its value. The mayor of Houston, Texas, estimated the cost to the city alone at about $5.5 million for Super Bowl LI, and that doesn't include the peripherals.
The Houston mayor also estimated the total economic impact to the city and state was about $350 million. You can argue about how that's calculated and who actually benefits, but even if it's in a nearby ballpark, it sounds likes a good investment.
The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee is in charge of preparations for the Twin Cities' star turn, and it raises money for the event by recruiting "founding partners," one of which is Mayo Clinic. There are 18 others, including some of the most iconic brands in Minnesota, from Land o' Lakes and 3M to U.S. Bank and Cargill.
There are other tiers of corporate sponsorship short of blue chip, including "presenting partners," "contributing partners," "in-kind partners" and "media partners." (Among the latter are just about all major Twin Cities media organizations, including the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.)
In January, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reported (and the Post Bulletin cited last weekend), the founding partners donate an eyepopping $1.5 million. They receive plenty of perks, including a well-appointed executive suite for the game, but the main reason they donate is to support this once-in-a-quarter-century event in Minnesota.
The Post Bulletin's Answer Man asked Mayo to confirm the $1.5 million number last week and a spokesman said Mayo "doesn't disclose its marketing budget." But the spokesman said that as Minnesota's largest private employer, the clinic "is committed to promoting the state as a top destination for economic investment and working to ensure a safe and successful experience for visitors."
We agree that Mayo, as one of the state's premier institutions, has an obligation to help out in an important project of this kind. It also makes sense, in context with Mayo's sponsorship of the Minnesota Lynx, the growth of its sports medicine facility in Minneapolis -- Mayo Clinic Square -- and other strategic moves that it believes it's worth the money to be identified with the Super Bowl.
It's certainly cheaper than buying a 30-second Super Bowl commercial.
But $1.5 million is a pile of money, and Mayo is the only nonprofit among the 19 founding partners. The others include Fortune 500 public companies such as Xcel Energy (No. 256) and private multinationals like Cargill. Mayo can keep pace with many of them in terms of revenue and bottom line, but it's reasonable to question whether it matches well with Mayo's nonprofit mission to be a top-tier contributor.
We get why U.S. Bank is a founding partner -- their name is on the stadium. There are benefits to all the corporate givers, and we completely agree that corporations have a responsibility to give back to their communities.
But there's no shame in Mayo contributing at a less-than-iconic level to avoid the perception that it's overdoing the branding when it's forced to pinch pennies elsewhere.