The Pro Bowl has been coming to Hawaii since 1980. Aloha Stadium has hosted 30 straight seasons from 1980 through 2009, 2011-2014, and now 2016. It started out as a great opportunity to highlight Hawaii on the national stage, and has continued to be just that, from forging partnerships with the NFL and the players, to the corporate sponsors that generate the big dollars. Economically, we saw a direct increase for the week of the Pro Bowl and a decrease in 2010 when we lost the Pro Bowl to Florida, and again in 2015 to Arizona.
The direct impact we see in our humble corner of Waikiki is amazing. A few years back, Tiki’s Grill & Bar hosted a VIP Pro Bowl Party, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Mufi Hannemann, then Mayor of Honolulu, both in attendance. Hosting the event at Tiki’s introduced us to a wider audience.The Pro Bowl Block Party used to happen right in front of the restaurant, which was very exciting, and brought us business and exposure. One of my personal favorite events was a Pro Bowl Party Kick Off and fundraiser that we hosted with Davone Bess, a former Tiki’s employee and UH student who went on to play professionally for the Miami Dolphins.
Though things have changed and shifted throughout the years, this year we are lucky to host the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders for a Meet & Greet and a team dinner, in partnership with e2k Entertainment, whom we’ve worked with in the past. We know they have a lot of options, and are honored that they chose Tiki’s.
Even with all the positive energy and excitement surrounding the return of the Pro Bowl to Oahu, it is sobering to think that we may lose it again next year. The NFL is considering Rio de Janeiro for 2017, and Mexico, and Germany for future years, in the hopes of increasing international popularity and viewership. It would be great to keep the Hawaii Pro Bowl tradition alive.
What can we do as a state? Simply put, we need to make sure the NFL, the players, and the vendors feel welcomed and appreciated.
The complexity comes from funding the event. That is a whole other post or a conversation to have in person at pau hana time.
Oahu, and of course Honolulu specifically, is known for having a large urban core. As more and more visitors are choosing to venture to more secluded neighbor islands such as Molokai and Lanai to experience a retreat-style vacation, it’s important to remind people why they should choose Oahu. Having large-scale events that highlight the fun and excitement of Honolulu will serve to continue drawing people here. Having the NFL come to Hawaii inspires not only future athletes but also future marketers and business people. When they get to see how the NFL and their partners operate first hand, they can see that the industry operates at a much higher level and playing field (pun intended). Getting to interact with top professionals can drive us all to do better as a visitor industry.
We are hosting a few of the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders on Thursday, January 28 at 6-7 pm offering free autographs, a free limited edition Pro Bowl Cheerleader photo card, and taking photos with lucky attendees.
Although the game remains the same, the NFL is always looking to stay relevant and enhance the fan experience. In the restaurant business, specifically in Hawaii, we should also be constantly looking for ways to engage the visitor industry, and in our own restaurant, we need to look at ways to engage the fans the way the NFL does.