Now that Indy’s Super Bowl has been eclipsed by the almost-summer sun, city officials and interest groups are scurrying to tally the numbers. Although the magnitude depends on who’s doing the presenting, everyone generally agrees that the dollars-in vs. dollars-out comparison results in a net loss for the city. Can you hear the rising grumbles of the local skeptics? (Here’s a quick summary.)

Before you join that crowd, consider this.

The Super Bowl itself is not the investment. If landing the Super Bowl were simply about this singular event, no one would want it. Individual vendors may make a lot of money, but cities generally don’t–at least not on that glorious week leading up to the big game.

I posit instead that landing a Super Bowl (or the Olympics or the Democratic/Republican political convention or any other big bidding event) is a brand investment. In that context, what company measures success on dollars-in vs. dollars-out immediately following the launch of a new campaign? Or a complete rebranding effort? Not one does. They all do it for the long-term benefit. (Note: Pepsi’s recent rebrand of just its logo is reported to have cost hundreds of millions. They’re not going to sell enough cans of soda in one day to cover those costs!)

The president of the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board shares my view. “If you think about it, to spend a million dollars for the branding and the effort that is generating for us is a pretty good return on investment,” said Ann Lathrop in a recent interview. Amen, sister.

Sure, there has to be a payback, but companies consider the effects over months and years, not days weeks. In that sense, the Super Bowl simply marks the campaign’s kick-off, not the final whistle.

Over 111 million–MILLION–people watched the big game on TV, representing 47% of American households. All the major and many of the minor networks offered coverage of the city’s pre-game festivities for the week preceding the game. Celebrities and tourists flooded the city. Press coverage and individual commentary was overwhelmingly positive. One of the country’s littlest big cities has earned future consideration from a wide audience.

Indianapolis will reap rewards from Super Bowl XLVI, but the game is still going on.

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