By Mike Ward
A month ago, the TurboVote team headed to the Bold North to take part in the fan experience of Super Bowl LII. Before Justin Timberlake’s historic selfie and the Eagles’ equally historic Super Bowl win, we helped football fans get ready to vote.
The excitement was just setting in as I touched down in Minneapolis for the 2018 Super Bowl. Upon arriving at the convention center, I immediately sensed the excitement and anticipation, even before fans, athletes, and stars from all over the country arrived. Our team was in Minneapolis to support the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). RISE launches initiatives across the country to promote understanding, respect, and equality through an alliance of professional sports leagues, organizations, athletes, educators, media networks, and sports professionals. In line with that mission and with the 2018 midterms approaching, their RISE to Vote campaign—a national, nonpartisan effort to register professional athletes to vote and lead their fans in becoming informed and engaged citizens—was part of their photo booth activation at the NFL Super Bowl Fan Experience.
Once the fan experience started, it was exciting to see how many fans would walk up and say they were already registered to vote. Fans and players alike appreciated that civic engagement had a place at the Super Bowl and that we were registering voters and working toward a greater cause in partnership with RISE. At one point, three fans who went to college together approached our booth. As they waited in line to take their photo, I asked them if they were registered to vote; two of them answered excitedly “Yes!”, but the third friend showed some hesitation. As good friends do, they immediately started encouraging her to get registered, so I took the opportunity to help her either update her voter registration or register to vote. The experience stuck with me as a quintessential display of the power of one’s peers and how memorable that invitation to engage with democracy can be. That fan can say she got registered to vote at Super Bowl LII, which is not only cool but it also gets you thinking about the variety of experiences that allow us to meet voters where they are and make the connections between voting and what’s important to them.
If we use this relationship by engaging professional sports teams, and fans, this will continue to be another step in increasing fans into regular voters by promoting voter engagement in their everyday lives. Moments spent with the fans and players passing through our booth were about helping democracy fit the way we live, especially when that means attending one of the most-watched events of the year.
The Super Bowl is a fan-focused experience that can mix with missions, such as that of Democracy Works and RISE, to build a community of change. This may have been the first time our team has worked with RISE, but it hopefully won’t be the last. If we are going to have a country that serves everyone, the voices of all need to be heard and when united, we can make that happen.