Why Does the Winning Super Bowl Team Say “I’m Going to Disney World!”?

Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone, and everyone is angry. Well, not everyone. Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver for the New England Patriots and Super Bowl LIII MVP, and his best buddy Tom Brady spent the day after the Super Bowl at the Walt Disney World Resort.

But why did he go to Disney World? Why do almost all of the Super Bowl champions shout “I’m going to Disney World!”(or Disneyland, depending on where you’re watching) right after winning? Oddly enough, it was Michael Eisner’s idea.

Super Bowl Disney World
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (left) and quarterback Tom Brady (right) celebrated their Super Bowl LIII victory Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, at Walt Disney World Resort. The pair participated in a parade with Mickey Mouse and other Disney pals, waving to cheering fans as they traveled down Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom Park. (Matt Stroshane, photographer). Image: Disney

Yup, THAT Michael Eisner, of the Disney Renaissance and Disneyland Paris fame. The idea first came to be in 1987 while Eisner was at dinner with Dick Rutan and Jenny Yager, the first people to fly around the world without stopping (and George Lucas!). In his memoir Work In Progress, Eisner writes: “It was late and the conversation hit a lull as we waited for our food, So I asked Dick and Jenny, ‘Well, now that you’ve accomplished the pinnacle of your aspirations, what could you possibly do next?’ Rutan responded, without hesitation, ‘I’m going to Disneyland’ And of course I go, ‘Wow, that’s cool! You made the right choice.’ But my wife interjects: ‘You know, that’s a good slogan.'” And Disney’s “What’s Next?’’ campaign was born.  

After that Dinner, the first Super Bowl MVP to announce his victory trip was Phil Simms, then-Quarterback of the New York (football) Giants after winning Super Bowl XXI against the Denver Broncos. And it’s been a tradition ever since, with 2005 being the lone year without a Super Bowl Champion excitedly shouting their vacation plans.

Eli Manning celebrates following Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. Image: Disney

Normally, they are shot in two takes, one for Disney World, one for Disneyland. Which commercial you see depends on where you live. If you live on the West Coast you are more likely to see Disneyland, but if you’re on the East Coast, you’ll probably hear Disney World. As for the actual trip however, its normally whichever is closest to the Super Bowl, in this years case being that the game was in Atlanta, it was the Walt Disney World Resort.

Do only Super Bowl MVPs go to Disney to celebrate? No, in fact, as long as you win the Super Bowl, you have a chance to be picked to say it, and even if you don’t you can still go. For example, Tom Brady gave his trip after Super Bowl LI to James White, the running back who scored the game winning touchdown.

(Feb. 3, 2014): Super Bowl XLVII MVP Malcolm Smith rides Feb. 3, 2014 with Mickey Mouse in a parade through the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Smith, a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, helped lead his team to a 43-8 victory last night over the Denver Broncos in East Rutherford, N.J. After the game, Smith became the NFL’s first defensive player to star in the iconic Disney Parks commercial where he proclaimed “I’m Going to Disney World!” (Matt Stroshane, photographer). Image: Disney.

Disney’s “What’s Next?” campaign may be most famous for the Super Bowl Champs, but it has also been shouted by champions such has Michael Jordan, Jeff Gordon, Orel Hershiser, and Nancy Kerrigan, who was infamously recorded telling Mickey Mouse “This is dumb, I hate it. This is the corniest thing I’ve ever done”. Even non-athletes have gotten in on the fun, such as singer Bruce Springsteen, former Miss America Gretchen Carlson, and Santa Claus himself!

As for that “vacation,” athletes who take part in the campaign are not necessarily on a vacation. In most cases, they are in and out of the parks in just a couple of hours. Their typical participation in the ad campaign involves a quick lap around the Magic Kingdom on a celebratory parade float, followed by only a few hours of experiencing what’s new at the resort solely for promotional purposes. Julian Edelman and Tom Brady spent the day after this year’s Super Bowl in the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and they were back in New England the following day for the team’s own victory parade.

The formal campaign may have created a less organic “vacation” for the players, but it is no less festive, and each year fans visiting the parks are thrilled to have the chance to see some of the favorite athletes celebrating at the “Most Magical Place on Earth”.

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