Friday, February 1, 2008

Scottsdale and the Super Bowl: Some Not So Obvious Economic Lessons

Just in case you had any doubts, Scottsdale is the place to be this week. Notice I said this week, not necessarily on Sunday. Today's issue of The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article. It points out that many movers, shakers and wannabes are spending time (and money) in Scottsdale in the run-up to the Super Bowl. But it also mentions that many of these same folks will leave before kick-off, having accomplished their personal missions. What is the value these people receive from participating in the pre-game reverie, while punting the game? (Sorry, had to get that in.)

If we look at the economic concept of utility, we might get some insights. Utility is the measure of usefulness a product, service (or event) brings to a consumer. Traditionally, we talk about form, place and time utility. That indicates that the item consumed has a form that satisfies a want for the consumer; is available in a place that satisfies a want; and/or is at a time that satisfies a want. While I've never been to Scottsdale, I'm sure it is a lovely town, and that it has its own form/place/time utility. However, for those who like to see and be seen, this town at this time has additional place and time utility that it normally doesn't possess. And you could even make a case that it has a form that normally is not present.

The people who come and leave early gain more value from being in Scottsdale this week than from actually attending the game. Which brings us to another concept for consideration: marginal cost/benefit. Given who these party-goers are and who they are likely to rub elbows with, they must see the benefits as outweighing the costs. It is in their best interest to be there. And it certainly is in the best interest of the hotels, restaurants and catering businesses of Scottsdale.

What do you think?

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