Posters for Medium Rare events on Super Bowl weekend. Posters for Medium Rare events on Super Bowl weekend.

The Super Bowl is known for a lot of events and parties ahead of the game, and this year’s Super Bowl LVII in Glendale is no exception. Four prominent weekend events this year come from the same events company, Medium Rare. They’re bringing back previous successes Shaq’s Fun House (with Shaquille O’Neal) and Gronk Beach (with Rob Gronkowski), while also adding Guy’s Flavortown Tailgate (with Guy Fieri) and Sports Illustrated: The Party.

Medium Rare senior director of partnerships Tatum Mannion recently spoke to AA about their Super Bowl plans. Mannion said while these events are all wildly different, the central theme is Medium Rare finding what fits with each personality or brand they work with.

“At a super high level, I would say that all of our Super Bowl events, and most of the events and properties that we put on, are really just born out of the idea of creating true joint venture businesses,” she said. “Our goal is to really partner with these different celebrities and media properties and bring their egos to life at these events. So creating new brand IP, and IP that they’re excited about, that we can then bring to different brand partners and consumers and fans in an exciting way.”

Mannion said it’s important to consider where those events take place, too. She said the Super Bowl in particular is a good fit to throw events around given how much attention it draws, which makes it worth lining up all these different things.

“One of those ways that we do that is that we show up at these very high impact weekends, such as the Super Bowl, and have really found our stride there,” she said. “It’s four events in three days, 42 brand partners, and a lot of excitement.”

The “Guy’s Flavortown Tailgate” event here is a new and exciting one for Medium Rare. Mannion said it grew out of past work with event host Fieri, and out of his desire to do something unique around the Super Bowl.

“We’ve worked with Guy in the past; during the pandemic, we did Guy’s Restaurant Reboot as a broadcast special, really to give back to restaurants. And Guy has attended Shaq’s Fun House and some of the other Super Bowl parties, and looked at that and said ‘What can I do?’ And we were chatting about bringing his brand, his iconic Flavortown, to an event, and that’s how the tailgate was born.”

Mannion said the tailgate with Fieri particularly stands out for being on game day itself, being adjacent to the stadium, and being free for fans who want to attend. And she said all of that led to some excellent partnership activations as well.

“What’s really interesting about this one is it’s free for 2,000 guests the morning before the game, adjacent to State Farm Stadium. We’ll have 20-plus popup restaurants, from the diners, drive-ins, and dives of the world, we’ll have Diplo performing, LOCASH performing. It’s presented by CashApp, which is incredible for a lot of reasons; part of our strategy is ‘How do we partner with some of the greatest brands in the world?’ CashApp will be doing things like presenting Guy’s Trashcan Nachos and bringing some football flair there. What’s really great about this is that Guy has worked with us hand in hand to bring his personality to life. He is a part of all of the processes, all of the production for the event. And we’re basically going to have a big Flavortown next to the stadium the morning before the game from 11:30 to kickoff.”

Plenty of non-sports celebrities do events around the Super Bowl even without being big sports fans, but Fieri’s sports love is well-established at this point (especially from all the times he shows up in sports videos and photos). Mannion said that helps keep this authentic, and Fieri’s food connections are a perfect fit for a Super Bowl event.

“It goes without saying that Guy is a massive sports fan. But, also, these big sports weekends, and especially the Super Bowl, are so tied to food in a lot of ways,” she said. “We see an abundance of coverage around the Super Bowl of ‘What to be making for your family or friends when they come over and watch the game.’ And we took that and figured it would make the most sense to have a food tailgate, where we can have all these different experiences, all these bites.”

Mannion said the wide-ranging popups and Fieri’s involvement also mean that Medium Rare can offer some appealing activations for different brand partners at this tailgate.

“Sprouts Farmers Market is a good one, Sprouts is going to be a big part of the event. We’re creating a butcher shop for them where they’ll be serving carne asada tacos, bringing that Phoenix flair. We’re able to take that and promote that and say ‘Hey, Guy has put his touch on this, this is Guy’s curated menu. You can get it here, you can get it at home, but why not get it at a free tailgate for all these fans?'”

As for Gronk Beach, this will be the third incarnation of that event, following one at Super Bowl LIV in Miami in 2020 and one at the NFL Draft in Las Vegas last year. Here’s a look at the Vegas event:

Mannion said as with Fieri, they also struck up this partnership with Gronkowski out of him attending one of Shaq’s events.

“Gronk actually attended Shaq’s Fun House, and similar to Guy, Gronk said ‘What is something that I can do?’ We’ve had a long history with Gronk, we love him and his brothers. And Gronk has mentioned that as he gets a little bit older, he doesn’t like staying out and partying all night. He wanted to do a daytime event by the beach, and lo and behold, Gronk Beach came about. And we did it in Miami and then again in Las Vegas during the NFL draft this past year.”

Mannion said Gronk Beach stands out as a daytime (it starts at noon local) event on the day before the Super Bowl.

“We’re excited to bring this to Saturday morning during Super Bowl weekend. We know there aren’t a lot of daytime events on Saturday, so this is going to quickly become the go-to for fans.”

And she said Gronkowski’s personality is an easy sell for many specific brand partners, and for the musicians who will be at the event.

“We’re working with a lot of partners that are excited to work with Gronk. Monster [energy drinks], for example. They’ll be releasing this all new product called Beast Unleashed. And as Gronk says, he’s a beast too, so he’s excited to unleash their new product. And we’ll have 21 Savage and Lil’ Jon and Diplo.”

Shaq’s Fun House is the longest-running event of these four, with Medium Rare first launching it in 2018. Mannion said the plans for it try to reflect O’Neal’s wide range of work and interests, from basketball to TV to entrepreneurship to DJing, and also his overall focus on fun.

“Shaq always has something new going on, so it’s ‘How can we utilize the Fun House to represent all the things he has going on?'” she said.  “He’s a huge part of how the overall event looks. This was born just out of him saying ‘I’m sick of going to Super Bowl parties where people stand around and sip. I want to do something fun.'”

“He calls himself the Chief Fun Officer, and this really is his personality, all the things that are rolled in. We have the Ferris wheel, we have the carousel, we have all the activations. We’re actually building a giant megastructure circus tent where we’ll have all the performances.”

Here’s a look at the Shaq’s Fun House event last year:

Mannion said O’Neal is also a great fit for a number of brands, some that have previous relationships with him and some that don’t.

“We not only have different brands that have worked with Shaq, such as Papa John’s, but also a lot of new brands that I think will be a huge part of bringing this event to life. Netspend, for example, is the presenting partner of this one.”

And Medium Rare has deep ties to O’Neal, including managing his “DJ Diesel” DJ career. And that will be worked in here, with him DJing a set that Taki’s will livestream to fans at home.

“He’ll have a performance, a set during the event, presented by Taki’s,” Mannion said. “And we’ll also have his son Myles O’Neal on set to perform as a DJ, and then Snoop Dogg is also a performer. And what’s cool about Snoop is Snoop and Shaq are very cool. So as you can see from the lineup, you can tell how Shaq is involved, his friends, his family, every single part of him.”

The Sports Illustrated: The Party event is a new one, but Medium Rare has done work with SI before, including putting on the SI Awards. Mannion said this event is going to be quite different from the ones focused around individual personalities, but the storytelling focus remains.

“We’re all in the business of storytelling. So how you tell the story of Shaq with Shaq’s FunHouse or Gronk with Gronk Beach, it’s the same thing with Sports Illustrated. Sports Illustrated has more of an elevated feel to it, kind of the brand itself, and that’s exactly what the event is. We don’t have a carnival there, we have more VIP and experiences, a lot of VIP tables, the cool nighttime flair. And it’s been incredible working with the Sports Illustrated team and our partners at Authentic Brands Group [which owns SI] to bring this to life.”

Mannion said this party will show off a number of cool facets of the SI brand, from their covers to their work on the NFL’s Fan of the Year program with Captain Morgan.

“It’s all a matter of telling the story of that brand. And you can see that represented on the ground, whether that’s showing off different Sports Illustrated covers or what schools are represented by Captain Morgan. Captain Morgan has a really unique Fan of the Year program with Sports Illustrated that we’ve highlighted, one fan from each team, all those fans are going to be there. So we’ll have a huge space for these fans of the year to come in and really be honored for being who they are, with that Sports Illustrated flair.”

While putting on four events in three days around the Super Bowl is ambitious, Mannion said it’s a good fit for Medium Rare. She said it helps that these events are all unique. And she said the combined tonnage here helps show off all the different things Medium Rare can do.

“Each of these events is different. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen, but I think we’re really creating a weekend takeover.”

[Top photo supplied by Medium Rare]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.