How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

How Indianapolis won the Super Bowl: a lesson in persuasion

February 3, 2012: 12:03 PM ET

Photo by Peter Bick

When I read in the New York Times last Sunday that Indianapolis won the opportunity to host the Super Bowl by sending a bunch of eighth graders to appeal to NFL team owners across the U.S., I wanted to know more about this tale of masterful persuasion. So I called Allison Melangton. the president and CEO of the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee, and asked her if she would elaborate. I somehow persuaded Melangton to take a few minutes from the busiest week of her life and share her story of bringing Super Bowl XLVI to her hometown:

In May 2008, just 12 days before our Super Bowl bid was due, Jack Swarbrick, the athletic director at Notre Dame, and Mark Miles, the board chair of the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee, suggested that we have eighth graders deliver the bid to the NFL team owners.

I thought, "No way."

Jack pushed back. "We can't let logistics stand in the way of a good idea," he said. "This is Indianapolis. We have all the help we need right here in our community."

He made the case, and I had one of those "ah-ha" moments.

What I realized is that you have to use what you got. We have a community brimming with pride and determination. We also have, in Indianapolis, a resourcefulness that pushes us to exceed expectations. so we activated a team to put the logistics in place to send 32 students all over the country with our official bid packet--in one day. The 32 eighth graders won the bid for us.

This week, those eighth graders, who are now high schoolers in the Class of 2012, and 8,000 volunteers have helped us make our Super Bowl a community-driven event. We've planted trees. We've rehabbed homes. And we've proven that if you play with passion and ingenuity, the sky is the limit. Thanks to our team of thousands.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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