Interview and photos by Claire Miller
The week leading up to Super Bowl LIII brought thousands of people to downtown Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center for the Super Bowl Experience, a sprawling series of interactive games and exhibits geared toward NFL football fans.
Mackenzie Rector, a master’s student in the College of Education & Human Development’s sport administration program, worked as a Super Bowl Experience area manager last week and learned the ins and outs of hosting a large-scale fan event.
Check out our Q&A with Rector to see how her coursework in sport administration prepared her for this role and what she learned from the experience.
Q: For those who haven’t heard of the Super Bowl Experience, how would you describe it?
A: “The Super Bowl Experience is one giant fan engagement experience, where fans can come and feel like they’re part of the NFL and the Super Bowl without having a ticket to the game. Fans can experience being the first round draft pick, return a punt kick for a touchdown, experience being on the field via a virtual reality experience, and kids can come and get active at the Play 60 Zone. There are two NFL shops for Super Bowl LIII swag, fans can take pictures of the Vince Lombardi Trophy and watch a real Wilson football be made from start to finish – and even have one custom made.”
Q: What was your role in the Super Bowl Experience and what did it entail?
A: “I worked as an area manager, so I oversaw any one of the activations, like the FedEx Air Challenge and the FedEx Ground Challenge. There, I assigned the “teammates,” who are hired to staff the various activations, and I made sure they each got a break, returned from break on time, provided excellent customer service, had answers to all of their questions, made sure the lines were moving as fast as possible and served as a point of contact for fans who needed assistance.”
Q: What were your favorite parts about working at the Super Bowl Experience?
A: “My favorite part about working the Super Bowl Experience was seeing how happy the fans were to have this type of event to attend. Seeing kids light up when they walked in, seeing fans who’d traveled from across the country really enjoy their time here, all for a shared experience. I truly believe in the power of sport and how it can positively impact people’s lives and for most fans who attended, they’ll remember this experience for the rest of their lives. Knowing that I played an active role in that is amazing.”
Q: How do you think the sport administration program prepared you for working this event?
A: “The sport administration program prepared me for this management role by encouraging us to learn how to work with and communicate effectively with others. Through group projects and group discussions where everyone may not agree, I feel I’m constantly developing my communication and listening skills that have helped me most in this role.”
Q: What are one or two things you’ve learned from this experience that you’ll take with you moving forward?
A: “I’ve learned to take advantage of every opportunity that I am presented with. It’s been such a pleasure working this event, and I could not imagine being here in Atlanta while this was going on and not be a part of it in some capacity. The second thing I’ve learned is that working in the sports industry can be a bit grueling, but it’s extremely rewarding working with such dedicated hard workers who have just as much passion for this work as I do.”