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The Kansas City Chiefs played their best regular season in the franchise’s 60-year history this year with 14 wins and only two losses. The team isn’t finished yet — with another Super Bowl game this Sunday, the Chiefs are favored to win this year’s big game.
And when the Chiefs win, so does Kansas City.
“They’re the height of sports hype in this town,” said Chase McAnulty, CEO of Kansas City-based merchandise brand Charlie Hustle. “When they win, everybody wins. During this time, it’s not just a Super Bowl for … football fans, but it’s a Super Bowl for small businesses.”
To win another Super Bowl title this year — the third in franchise history and the seventh major league sports championship to be won by a Kansas City team in the last 10 years — would not only energize the city’s already passionate fan base, but the economy as well. The success of a sports franchise becomes absorbed by local businesses selling sports merchandise, local bars and restaurants, hotels housing outside travelers on game day weekends, and tourism organizations attracting outside travelers. And on a larger scale, Kansas City’s reputation as a midwestern city grows even more.
What could a second straight Super Bowl win for the Chiefs mean for Kansas City’s economy in the midst of an ongoing pandemic? Michael Davis, an economics professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology who studies the economic effects of NFL teams, said another Super Bowl win could still benefit the local economy — even in a time of lower consumer spending.
“Because economic activity is lower than normal, having any sort of positive surge in consumption will have a bigger effect than if the economy is already good,” he said.
Positive economic benefits
Looking at the games won by local professional football teams, a study conducted by Davis at Missouri S&T found that success on the field positively affects real per capita income of cities and residents. In other words, a successful team means increased consumption and spending. Cities with a successful NFL team see an estimated $100 increase in income per person, the study found.
“There’s a lot of research that how well your team does will improve your mood,” Davis said. “And then the second step is if your mood is improved, then you may see positive economic benefits.”
The study also found that a Super Bowl win can further accentuate that economic impact, amounting to what the study terms a “January bonus.”
Economic reports from the Mid-America Regional Council, a nonprofit planning organization focusing on the nine-county Kansas City metropolitan region, found that the Kansas City economy had been growing at a slower pace compared to the U.S. Then, citing stimulus spurred by the construction of the Kansas City International Airport, MARC predicted in 2019 that the regional economy would grow slightly faster than the national economy.
But the pandemic has upended those forecasts. The most recent forecast report from MARC found that although the regional economy appeared to bounce back after shut down orders in the spring — nearly 60% of jobs lost in the initial months of the pandemic have been recovered — overall economic recovery has begun to slow.
The city of St. Louis felt the economic benefits of a championship win in 2019, when the St. Louis Blues won the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. An economic report from May 2019 found that local hospitality sales were stronger than anticipated because of interest in the Blues.
Kansas City is no stranger to winning championships. In 2015, the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in Major League Baseball’s World Series. The subsequent championship parade drew an estimated 800,000 people.
Putting Kansas City on the map
Despite the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl last year, the impacts of that win were quickly tampered by the spread of the coronavirus across the U.S. — just a month after the Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade in downtown Kansas City last year, Mayor Quinton Lucas issued the city’s first set of stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of the virus.
Still, the Chiefs’ success on the field last year remained a glimmer of hope and a magnet to bring the greater Kansas City region together, said Derek Klaus, director of communications at Visit KC, which focuses on economic development through tourism in the Kansas City region.
“It doesn’t hurt to have the Chiefs be so successful and bring on more games, because that’s more opportunities for us to get in front of locals and regional travelers and people across the nation that maybe haven’t heard of Kansas City before, or perhaps have a different perspective of Kansas City,” he said.
A winning sports franchise like the Chiefs not only elevates the team to national recognition, but the city itself, Klaus said. It provides an opportunity for city organizations to leverage that success in a way that attracts more tourists, business, conventions and events to the region.
“We do know that opportunities like this bring us publicity and exposure that is priceless,” he said. “The attention that the Chiefs have brought us is advertising we couldn’t buy.”
In a normal year, Klaus said, tourism in Kansas City is a $5 billion industry, attracting about 25 million visitors. But with most leisure and business travel halted because of the pandemic, local tourism took a hit, as the city lost out on the nearly 10 million visitors who come to Kansas City via business travel in a normal year.
Still, Klaus said Kansas City saw an uptick in interest from groups considering Kansas City as the site of future conventions during the Chiefs’ successful playoff run last year.
“Although some of those conversations may be paused for the time being, or perhaps the group isn’t able to convene or gather in Kansas City safely right now, we do think that in the long term, Chiefs success is going to parlay into tourism success,” he said.
As marketing director at the Kansas City Sporting Commission, Katherine Fox works to attract major sporting events to the Kansas City area. Any time the Chiefs are doing well, it helps the work of the Sporting Commission to attract future events and conventions to Kansas City.
“There’s a perception that we’ve got this great football team and these amazing fans and a community that really rallies around it is very helpful, from our perspective, when we’re trying to do our job of getting other events here.”
‘That’s good for everybody’
Local clothing brand Charlie Hustle saw firsthand the kind of fan frenzy ignited by the Chiefs’ Super Bowl performance and championship win last year. The company tried everything it could to restock on red T-shirts as they continued to fly off the shelves — the company sold out of nearly everything.
This year, McAnulty said Charlie Hustle is more prepared.
“Last year, we were doing everything on the fly. We had designs coming out in January,” McAnulty said. “This year, we knew the Chiefs would be good. So we started planning for the Super Bowl back in September.”
The success of sports teams like the Chiefs can spur consumer spending on team merchandise. If the products come from local businesses, those dollars are able to flow back into the Kansas City economy. Davis at Missouri S&T said a mood boost generated by a game-winning team could translate into increases in spending and productivity at work. Having the NFL season occur in tandem with the holidays is another catalyst for spending.
“If the team does well, you go to work, you’re happier, and you’re more productive at work,” he said. “And so you produce more and then therefore, that would increase economic activity.”
According to MARC’s latest economic report, consumer spending by the end of September 2020 was down by 5.6% when compared to January 2020. But the report also remains optimistic that retail sales at the end of the 2020 will still exceed 2019’s numbers.
For retailers like Charlie Hustle, that became a reality. McAnulty said that this past year, sales from Chiefs merchandise surpassed those made from the 2020 holiday season, adding that Chiefs merchandise became nearly 20% of the brand’s business.
“(The Chiefs) continue to build and continue to grow and now they’ve established a winning program, and beyond that they are a winning organization,” McAnulty said. “Ultimately, that’s good for everybody. That’s huge for the local economy and economic development of our community.”