By Erika Turan, APR, Senior Account Executive
It’s been 32 years since the Cincinnati Bengals last played in the Super Bowl. Most of the players on this year’s team weren’t even alive the last time that happened. Cincinnati and its neighboring communities have long loved the Bengals, even when they lost. And lost. And lost some more. And occasionally got arrested.
But all that’s in the past now. New days, new players, new coach. And the fans who have long loved this NFL team are now enjoying the rewards of experiencing what it’s like when a brand comes to life.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a professional sports team. They have a stadium. They have cheerleaders. They have a logo and uniforms and lots of branded items fans can purchase. But that’s not a brand. The brand is the emotional connection fans feel to the team, to athletes they may never see play in person, let alone meet in real life.
Here are some fun, interesting and surprising ways the Bengals brand is unfolding in the Queen City in the days ramping up to the Super Bowl:
- The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County showed off a Bengals superfan who used the main library’s makerspace to create custom wraps for his car. Oh, and the library re-branded its IG account with tiger strips.
- The world’s most famous hippo, Fiona of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, used her platform to predict the winner of the Super Bowl. Spoiler alert: she chose the Bengals, and more than 7,000 people – and counting – have liked her Facebook post about it.
- Cincinnati-area schools canceled school the day after the Super Bowl so students and staff can stay up to watch the game, and media outlets like The Today Show and USA Today took notice. Is there anything better than watching Al Roker talk about how your school is canceled so you can root for your favorite team? How about the schools whose superintendents asked students to raise money for a local charity in exchange for that day off?
- Streets – heck, even whole towns – were re-named in the ramp up to the big game. Dayton, Kentucky (just across the river from Cincinnati) became Who Deyton, Kentucky. The town of Cheviot, a suburb of Cincinnati, re-named streets for the month of February, complete with signage for new roads such as “Joe Burrow Way.”
- Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport added more than a dozen new, direct flights to Los Angeles for Bengals fans looking to get in on the action.
- A baby born during the Bengals’ game-winning field goal was named Joseph, in honor of QB1 Joe Burrow.
- Donations flooded in for Joe Burrow’s Hunger Relief Fund, with more than $24,000 raised. And on the flipside, Bengals’ fans donated more than 4,000 meals to a Kansas City non-profit in honor of the team the Bengals defeated in the AFC championship game.
- The City of Cincinnati had lengthy discussions about holding a Super Bowl watch party at Paul Brown Stadium. Ultimately, complex logistics railroaded that plan. But, a free fan rally was scheduled at the stadium instead.
- The Governor Diner developed all kinds of delicious menu items that both fill bellies and fuel fans, like the Joe Burrowito, Cincy Sam Hubbard’s Chili Lasagna, Money Mac Burger, Bengal Spice Carnitas Bowl, and Coach Taylor Pork Roll.
- Jimmy Fallon had puppies predict the Super Bowl And, they picked the Bengals.
- Water towers, donuts, an ark, Fountain Square, bridges, the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark, and even an Eiffel Tower were lit up in orange.
- Social media + smart phones give us a fly-on-the-wall view of fans at home like never before. The Cincinnati Enquirer compiled dozens of fan-generated videos that show the tension and celebration from homes and viewing parties as the championship game unfolded. That video went viral and has been viewed millions of times. Check it out.
This just barely scrapes the tip of the proverbial iceberg. But what an exciting, black-and-orange striped iceberg it is. For anyone experiencing it firsthand, it’s incredibly fun to be part of the groundswell when a brand comes to life. Who Dey!