It may seem an odd pairing, but the two sides say their partnership makes business sense.
Cirque gets to align with the country's most popular sports league, and the NFL, battling
bad publicity over concussions, domestic violence and other issues, is uniting with a
popular, uncontroversial entertainment brand with a broad, international following. "It's
new for us," said Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO, Cirque du Soleil. "We try to
push the boundaries of new technology in live entertainment. NFL is a huge brand; it's
the number one sport in America... [and] they share our point of view in getting close to
the general public," Lamarre added, "Obviously they have their own issues like any other
organizations. But for us we see football in North America as being an amazing event that
you see at every level," referring to how children, teenagers and college students play
football and that even non-athletes rally behind a team.
"The NFL and Cirque du Soleil are two iconic global brands. We are pleased to team
with this industry leader to set the new standard of excellence in sports and
entertainment," said NFL Chief Marketing Officer Dawn Hudson. "We are thrilled to
re-imagine what it means to authentically engage with fans by providing them an
immersive, innovative experience celebrating football and available year-round. We
hope to bring fans of all ages and avidity into the huddle and give them an all-access
pass to players and teams."
The NFL Times Square experience will mark Cirque du Soleil's first official
experiential sports venture. World renowned for their live show productions, this
new exhibit will showcase their extensive capabilities as creative content providers
and continue to position them as an industry leader, bringing the NFL to life like
never before through their creative vision and innovation.
"Our new venture with the NFL signifies the next phase of Cirque du Soleil, and we
see tremendous opportunity in working creatively with the League as well as other
world-class brands throughout the world. No other brand in professional sports is
as strong and popular as the NFL and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to
showcase the NFL from a whole new perspective," Lamarre said.
"We are happy to facilitate an experience that brings NFL players closer to football
fans from around the world," said NFL Players, Inc. President Ahmad Nassar. "This
will be a unique and innovative showcase of professional football and an example of
how our business can be a unifying force."
Cirque du Soleil will work closely with the Witkoff Group, a leading global real
estate development and investment firm, on the development of the space, located at
20 Times Square. Leading sports and entertainment presenter AEG will also be part
of the project as a financial partner. Several other strategic partners involved in
the project include world-renowned architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, as
well as the Thinkwell Group, a design and production agency that will help develop
the custom content-driven experiences within the exhibition.
On May 3, 2017, the NFL Experience Times Square revealed the first detailed look
inside the state-of-the-art interactive attraction that promises to bring football
fans closer to the game than ever before. Opening this November in Times Square, the
NFL Experience Times Square offers fans a chance to step into the shoes of an NFL
player using a 4D cinematic experience, physical challenges, augmented reality, and
various immersive elements to give fans the ability to step into the huddle.
"NFL Experience Times Square is the next level of entertainment for new and
life-long football fans alike," says Danny Boockvar, President of NFL Experience
Times Square. "This must-see attraction will allow residents and tourists to
experience the game like never before."
From the ground floor lobby located on 44th Street at 7th Avenue, visitors take the
elevator up to the fourth floor where they are transported into the rituals of game
day. Passing a "Wall of Fame" (pictured below) with personalized messages from NFL
legends, visitors are invited to explore the rich history of America's game through
videos playing on jumbotrons. Participants can test their favorite team knowledge with
more than 20 interactive touchscreen stations representing all 32 NFL teams. As they
make their way towards the theater, fans pass displays of iconic items such as the
Terrible Towel in Pittsburgh and the Cheesehead from Green Bay.
Visitors then take their seats inside the 4D theater for "Gameday", an immersive film
with exclusive content from NFL Films. The 185-seat theater is designed to evoke the
feeling of being in a packed football stadium, boasting wall-to-wall high-tech
screens, cutting-edge motion seats and temperature controlled elements for a highly
sensory experience that transforms viewers from fans into players.
The multi-media film follows the player's pursuit of the football throughout the
season and tracks the emotions of the NFL season: the exhilaration of September,
the trials of October, the thrill of November and the achievement of making the
Playoffs in December. The audience feels a surge of adrenaline as they become the
wide receiver running down the field while the defense rushes towards them, feeling
the cool air as fall turns to winter. This view of the game will show it in a way
never experienced before: the speed, the intimate nature of the field, the closeness
of the stands and the sidelines.
The audience exits the 4D theater on the third floor having won the Conference
Championship game and enters the "Locker Room" to the sound of cheers and real
post-game speeches from NFL coaches. Now in the inner sanctum of the players, fans
move through a "Training Facility", tasked to prepare for the upcoming Super Bowl.
Designed to replicate an authentic NFL team workout facility, fans can "Measure Up"
to the pros with a series of interactive challenges – including a vertical leap test
and blocking obstacles that compare guests' abilities with the best on the offensive
and defensive lines.
Using a combination of enhanced visual effects and Kinect technology, fans can then
"Suit Up" as part of their favorite NFL team. Once the system digitally "builds" the
body armor and uniform on their live image, fans can see their physical prowess in
the team uniform of their choice.
Moving from training the body to sharpening the football mind, fans in the "Game Plan"
are then given one-on-one instruction from a hologram of a NFL legendary coach. Just
like NFL quarterbacks, fans prepare for their upcoming opponent by learning a new play
in a space that replicates a coach's classroom, complete with a large digital whiteboard
that comes to life with the game's X's and O's.
In "Huddle Up", visitors step into the middle of the huddle as their team's quarterback.
With fame and glory on the line, fans must take command of the huddle and lead their
team to execute the new play. Call the play, read the defense and get the play off in
time, all while the coach is watching from the sidelines.
Now the fan is ready to enter the biggest game – The Super Bowl – where they can test
their skills by throwing a real football to their favorite receiver, feeling the thrill
of a Super Bowl victory by completing the game-winning pass. The "Quarterback Challenge"
tracks the football's speed, accuracy and completion percentage and compares it against
fans' favorite world-class quarterbacks.
Transformed from players to champions, visitors descend to the second floor where
they are enveloped in the swelling sound of cheering fans surrounded by their
teammates. Integrated LED lights simulate a lightning storm of camera flashes and
capture the excitement of the player's arrival on the NFL's biggest stage.
Now in the middle of the world's biggest victory celebration, the field comes to
life with augmented reality immersing visitors in the pomp and circumstance of a
Super Bowl win through the eyes of a pro. Fans celebrate with their heroes feeling
the joy of conquering every opponent to reach the pinnacle of the sport. Fans can
be interviewed by a reporter to tell them how it feels to have trained physically
and mentally to win the Super Bowl.
As a champion, fans have earned the right to share the stage with the Vince Lombardi
Trophy and experience the iconic trophy up-close just like a Super Bowl victor.
Fans then move to an installation showcasing the NFL's most personal prize – the
Super Bowl ring. The ring's design is the most intimate expression of the team's
season and the guiding principle that got them to the top.
Fans exit through the tunnel of champions, where they are immersed in video showing
highlights of their heroes' greatest on-field moments. By the end of the tunnel, fans
see their own highlights and maybe even their on-field Super Bowl interview.
Fans can celebrate by doing their own "Touchdown Dance," which could even be
televised in Times Square.