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Super Bowl-Corporate TEMPE, Ariz. -- The big play for many of those attending the 1996 Super Bowl might happen in a hotel hospitality suite, on a golf course or in a private party at a restaurant instead of on the field at Sun Devil Stadium. American business executives will arrive by the planeload and trainload to attend Sunday's game, making it an occasion to thank major customers and cultivate new ones. "It's just a great opportunity to get their top clients and top executives together, give them a chance to mingle," said Scott Bartle, marketing coordinator for the Super Bowl Host Committee. The NFL estimates that corporate America accounts for more than 50 percent of the tickets sold and that top executives from nearly 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies will be represented. Super Bowl tickets are used mostly to reward existing good customers although they certainly help boost or even create future business, executives say. The hospitality extended by businesses such as the Miller Brewing Co. unit of Philip Morris Cos. Inc., Union Pacific Corp. and The Coca-Cola Co. can include catered barbecues and golf tournaments at upscale resorts in the days before the game -- and hospitality tents and game tickets for Super Sunday. "They want to be a host to their customers and their employees and they want to have a Southwest flavor and to have some football fun, to be seen and have a presence," said Bob Marhenke, a catering executive for the Macayo chain that includes a restaurant a half-mile from the stadium. While most corporate visitors will fly to and from Arizona, two major railroads are using private passenger trains to deliver customers and some of their own top executives. Union Pacific's invited guests will board its train in Salt Lake City for three nights traveling en route to Arizona via Las Vegas and Southern California. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.'s train will travel from Kansas City, Mo., to Southern California, where most of its guests will board for the ride to Arizona. The trains include dome cars, diners, sleepers and business-office cars. The Super Bowl's appeal to customers helps provide Burlington Northern a chance to show off its service. There is no substitute "to getting customers out on the railroad to see what it's like, zipping along at 70 mph," spokesman Mike Martin said from Schaumberg, Ill. "I hate to use the term, but they'll be pampered," Martin said. "The food is gourmet food on fine china, crystal and sterling silver and fine linens on the dining table." Other companies will host hospitality suites, private parties and the like in more traditional settings. Miller Brewing's 600 guests get game tickets, invitations to players' and tailgate parties, admission to a hospitality tent on game day, dinners and golf outings, said spokesman Mark Abel. Out-of-town visitors must pay for their own travel and lodging, but Miller likes to "make sure they have a good time once they're there," Abel said. NBC has booked three-quarters of the 554-room Arizona Biltmore luxury resort. The network's guests include corporate buyers of Super Bowl commercial time -- which is being sold for about $1.2 million for 30 seconds. "It's an opportunity for corporate promotion," said Jim Ball, managing director of the Arizona Biltmore. Ball and other corporate spokesmen declined to discuss the cost of corporate entertainment. "We don't talk about specific dollar arrangements because our competitors would like to know," Miller's Abel said from Milwaukee. The big bills for entertainment should pay dividends, said Jim Austin, spokesman for the Pointe Hilton resorts, where several corporate golf tourneys are scheduled for Super Bowl weekend. "If you ask how many widgets were ordered, probably none, but how many are going to get ordered in the future because of the relationship you've established on the golf course would be considerable," Austin said.
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