by Ray Keating
February 2, 2020
Super Bowl LIV kicks off tonight at 6:30 PM EST, with the Kansas City Chiefs squaring off against the San Francisco 49ers in Miami. After the game, someone on the winning team will look into a camera and declare, “I’m going to Disney World!”
On Monday, February 3, that star player will be part of a celebratory parade down Main Street, U.S.A., in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Even if not at the park, you’ll be able to watch as Disney will stream the parade live on the Disney Parks Blog at approximately 2:40 PM EST.
The “I’m going to Disneyland” or “I’m going to Disney World” Super Bowl moment began with Giants quarterback Phil Simms at the Super Bowl in Pasadena in early 1987. In his book, Work in Progress, Michael Eisner, Disney CEO at the time, described how it all got started:
No campaign we undertook achieved more visibility than our “What’s Next?” ads. Early in 1987, Frank [Wells] and I had a dinner inside Disneyland with George Lucas and several celebrities we’d invited to promote the opening of Star Tours, among them Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan. The couple had made headlines a month earlier by piloting a single-engine plane around the world on one tank of gas. At some point in the evening, my wife turned to Rutan. “Now that you’ve flown around the world and done the most adventurous thing imaginable,” Jane asked reasonably enough, “what are you going to do next?”
“Well, we’re going to Disneyland,” he replied sincerely. As soon as she had a chance, Jane pulled me aside and described the exchange. “This would make a great advertising campaign,” she said. By the middle of the night I was addicted to the idea. The next morning, I called Tom Elrod. Two weeks later, at the Super Bowl in Pasadena, the New York Giants overwhelmed the Denver Broncos. As the Giants’ quarterback walked to the sidelines, he stopped for the camera crew we had waiting. “Phil Simms, you’ve just won the Super Bowl,” an off-camera voice asks. “What are you going to do next?” He looked at the camera with a big smile and replied, “I’m going to Disneyland.” We had arranged for Simms to spend the next day at the park with his wife and young children, appearing in our parades, taking his kids on rides, and making a slew of media appearances—each using Disneyland as a backdrop.
To our amazement, the campaign acquired a certain icon status.
And it remains iconic 33 years later.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution and the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.