Behind The Scenes

Rebooting a Times Square party

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NEW YORK — espnW’s U.S. Women’s World Cup Kickoff viewing party began without a hitch at 11:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

Well, it was supposed to . . .

The ESPN Special Events Marketing team on site began setting up for the party around 9:00 a.m.

Among the festivities planned were face painting, a calisthenics workout with Dr. Jordan Metzl, a soccer penalty kick simulator with prizes, temporary tattoos and bleachers for fans to stop and watch the Team USA versus North Korea game live.

But there was an unplanned event nearby: A man took it upon himself to climb a light pole at the intersection of 44th Street and Seventh Avenue around 9:30 a.m.

You see where this is going, right?

Reports indicate that the man was looking to promote his music by rapping and talking to the crowds below. Even after police arrived on scene to coax him down, he refused to budge.

The incident caused enough concern that Times Square and the surrounding roads were closed to traffic. It was a standstill — the set up for the party could not resume until Velasquez was safely on the ground.

Finally, nearly two hours later, he climbed down the ladder provided by police before being taken away from the scene.

It was at that time that the ESPN Special Events Marketing team was able to continue its work.

Have you ever wondered what kind of planning goes on for events like this one?

Chances are it’s a lot more complicated than you think — even without a more serious disturbance.

Obstacles can pop up and you need to think fast. This is especially true in Times Square.

Maureen Elliott, a Manager on ESPN’s Special Events Marketing team, has seen a lot over her six years with the group.

Every event serves a different purpose, a different audience, and has its own unique needs.

It is the Special Events group that really makes it happen. The team typically plays host to more VIP/Hospitality type events than ones open to the public, like the viewing party where more elements come into play.

“Something like this was really different because there are a host of city permits involved,” Elliott said.

“Everything from actually securing the space, to the permit to simulcast the game [which needs NYPD approval], the Department of Health Approval to distribute Gatorade at the Hydration Station, and other permits to allow the prize giveaways — there are a lot of hands involved!

” Also, obviously we can’t control what happens in public places, like this morning.”

No matter what issues surface during any event, Elliott stressed the importance of remaining calm and being able to roll with the punches.

That’s exactly what she and the Special Events Marketing team did. Despite the situation, they managed to make up for more than an hour of lost time quickly, and the event started only about 15 minutes behind schedule.

Elliott also makes the point that although Special Events Marketing team plans these events, it doesn’t don’t do it alone.

Other integral ESPN groups involved include Security, Merchandising, Accounting and Finance. All of these groups contribute to the execution and success of events like this.

When it comes to planning an event of this scale, typically the group would have had four months lead time to prepare.

This time they pulled it off in only three weeks. The icing on the cake? The U.S. Women’s team won the game, 2-0.

Congrats go to U.S. Women’s side in Germany, and also to the espnW and Special Events Marketing teams for pulling off a successful and engaging event in New York City.

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