NFL rule changes allow Las Vegas ads during Super Bowl

By Richard N. Velotta (contact)

Executives with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and their contracted advertising agency, R&R Partners, will meet early next month to determine if the city’s popular “What happens here, stays here” television ads can be aired in the Super Bowl broadcast.

Other tourism companies say they’re working to capitalize on the National Football League’s modified ad policy that would lift a ban that prevented cities with legalized gambling to run TV spots during the NFL’s post-season.

This year’s Super Bowl, to be played in Miami, is Feb. 7 and the NFL post-season begins Jan. 9.

Under the old rules, destinations like Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe could not run their ads during the broadcast, one of the nation’s most-watched television events, because of the cities’ association with gambling.

The new rule allows Las Vegas to advertise, but it still prohibits ads featuring specific hotels and casinos or any gambling references or imagery.

While some of the “What happens here, stays here” ads are set in resorts, others don’t have any gambling or individual property references. LVCVA and R&R executives will meet to determine whether their ads would meet the NFL’s new standards and whether the high cost of Super Bowl ads would be worth the buy.

The LVCVA spends about $85 million a year to advertise Las Vegas. Last year, a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl cost an advertiser $3 million.

A spokesman for the LVCVA said the NFL would have the final say on whether any ad met its standard.

The Associated Press reported that under the policy modification, ads for Las Vegas tourism with pictures of golf, swimming pools and entertainers would be permitted. An ad with footage of slot machines, dice, cards or a wide shot of the Las Vegas Strip and casinos would not.

The highly lauded “What happens here, stays here” series includes ads that reference Las Vegas but never shows it. One ad depicts a couple returning home after a visit, asking their teenage son what he did while they were away. When he replies, “Nothing,” he asks the same question of the parents, who look at each other sheepishly and the man saying, “Nothing.”

R&R Partners, which has created the ads, has said that it has some new “What happens here” ads ready for release. Some have aired in target markets.

Las Vegas has not had the best relationship with the NFL on advertising over the years. In 2003, the NFL banned Las Vegas from advertising during the Super Bowl broadcast. R&R capitalized on the ban, generating interest with news stories and appearances on national morning shows that turned out to be more valuable exposure than the ads. Many of the ads were shown during those news stories giving the city hours of free publicity.

A year later, the LVCVA purchased ads from individual CBS affiliates instead of the network during the game, irritating NFL officials.

Some individual hotels have used the same strategy. In 2005, Steve Wynn appeared in a post-game ad about the opening of Wynn Las Vegas later that year., a travel Web site and a sister company of the Las Vegas Sun, plans to advertise during the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl.

“We’ve been trying to work this out with the NFL for a good number of years,” said Howard Lefkowitz, president of also has produced award-winning ads and Lefkowitz said the company is considering whether to use existing ads or develop new content. Like the LVCVA spots, ads don’t show casinos or gambling images.

“Gaming is a significant part of our world-class destination and our resorts are part of our overall economy,” Lefkowitz said. “We’re looking at all the options because we haven’t been able to do anything in the past.

“While they (NFL) have sensitivities to gaming, we don’t have gaming in our ads. But we know the NFL and casinos have similar audiences and constituencies.”

Lefkowitz said advertising in January could provide a boost for Las Vegas in 2010 and provide new opportunities for next year’s football season.