Super Bowl's funky suite

Touchdown: A Baltimore firm that got its start in bar mitzvahs is going to the Super Bowl a second time.

February 04, 2005|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

Super Bowl XXXIX isn't all about football.

Reebok International, for one, will wine and dine its clients and celebrity endorsers - from rapper Jay-Z to Ravens star Ray Lewis - in a pimped-out suite in Jacksonville, Fla., that boasts mini-lounges, a 21-foot mahogany bar, an Xbox video-game station, flat-screen televisions and pool table.

The company behind the hangout is Fandango Special Events, a small Baltimore event-planning firm that got its start arranging bar mitzvahs but has since gained fans among big corporations for its funky decor and off-the-wall ideas.

Fandango is the official decorator for the 4,000- square-foot Reebok suite in a converted row of storefronts along Bay Street in Jacksonville, the main entertainment venue for pro football's big weekend.

Reebok, which holds the exclusive license on NFL apparel, came up with the idea. Fandango brought it to life.

Fandango gave the suite a retro lounge-like feel. The 300-plus invited guests will be able to lounge on leopard print couches or cocoa brown leather sofas decorated with throw pillows embroidered with the Reebok name. They can set their drinks down on bar tables decorated with footballs that from across the room look like they're suspended in air above the tables. They can shoot the breeze from bar stools emblazoned with the Reebok name.

"They'll stop in and have a beer, have a water, or whatever," said Cecelia Paglia, director of event marketing for Reebok. "It has a lounge feel. You can come in and play a game of pool and chill out, or watch ESPN on the big screen."

This is the second year Fandango was chosen to design the Super Bowl hospitality suite for Reebok. Reebok discovered Fandango while looking for "some cool" furniture for an event two years ago.

The athletic apparel manufacturer was drawn to Fandango's line of "Funkiture," contemporary and sometimes weird furniture - like the red high-heel lounge chair and hot-lips sofa - it rents out to its clients.

Reebok said it initially only planned to use Fandango on a limited basis. But Steve Krauthamer, a senior account executive with Fandango, kept coming to them with more ideas. Soon, Reebok couldn't say no.

"We didn't anticipate using them to the capacity we have now," Paglia said. "But Steve kept saying we can do more. We can do more."

Last month, Fandango put together a party for Reebok at a New York photography studio to preview the Reebok pump, a new basketball shoe, to the sports media and celebrities.

Since it was founded by sisters Erin and Dawn Cermak in 1989 - mostly doing bar mitzvahs and other small parties - Fandango has added many other big corporations to its client list.

It planned a holiday party for employees at Freddie Mac that featured a Moulin Rouge theme and a gigantic red windmill in the middle of the room. At a Christmas party for 6,000 AOL employees and their families in 2001, the year of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Fandango put in the main room a 22-foot-tall inflatable Statue of Liberty head with sunglasses as a reflection of renewed patriotism.

At a builders show in Florida where Nextel Communications held a reception to introduce its phones and applications to potential clients, Fandango held races on Segway Human Transporters - those machines that look like old-fashioned lawn mowers. They also put together a tire-changing contest.

"You tell them what your objective is and they pull together 20 ideas that are amazing," said Andy Birkenstock, a senior manager for Nextel.

Fandango, which said it came up with its name before the similarly named online movie ticket service, said that it wants to wow its clients with out-of-the-ordinary sets and decor, but that ultimately its main objective is to make sure the client is connecting with its audience.

"That's the point of spending the money and getting the booth," said Dawn Cermak, who is responsible for Fandango's business development. "You want the face-to-face time with the potential client."

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