She’s got game

CEO of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Maureen Bausch
As CEO of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Maureen Bausch is in charge of branding the state of Minnesota as well as promoting a week of Super Bowl festivities. Photo by Tracy Walsh

If you’ve ever hosted a big, important event, you know the stress that’s involved: Have I made all the right preparations? Is there anything I forgot? Will everyone have fun?

Now multiply your guest list by about a million and you’ll have a better understanding of Maureen Bausch’s position. The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee CEO is expecting an estimated 1 million visitors to the Twin Cities area for the event, plus coverage from 5,000 sports and lifestyle media outlets. If Super Bowl LII is as successful as her committee hopes, it could help pump $400 million into the local economy.

While the extent of Bausch’s previous football experience was a stint on the Stillwater Area High School Chevals dance line team during halftime shows, the class of 1972 alumnae is now leading a charge down the field for statewide victory on Feb. 4, when the world’s marquee sporting event will be played in Minnesota’s new 66,000-seat stadium.

U.S. Bank Stadium sparkles outside Maureen Bausch’s office at the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee headquarters on South Fifth Street in downtown Minneapolis. Photo by Tracy Walsh

Hooley’s to Cub

Bausch comes from a long line of savvy and visionary marketers.

“My family has lived in the Stillwater area for more than 100 years, and my great-great grandfather owned our first market, Hooley’s Meats & Provisions, in the days when lumber camps lined the St. Croix River banks,” she said.

Growing up, Bausch worked in the family-owned Hooley’s Supermarket as a cashier.

The business grew, and Bausch’s father, Charles Hooley, went on to co-found Cub Foods. After graduating with an elementary-education degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Bausch had a brief stint in teaching (fourth grade for Mesa Public Schools in Arizona), then returned to Minnesota to staff Stillwater-based Cub Foods’ new advertising department, where she remained for 13 years.

“The company grew so quickly,” she said. “We had only four stores when I started.”

Eventually, Bausch began to wonder if she needed a change.

“When you’re working for your family, it can sometimes be difficult for people to realize you’re also qualified to do other things. In some ways, it felt like a stigma that I’d worked for my family for so long, even though we’d expanded to 85 stores in 14 markets, many outside Minnesota.”

In search of her next chapter, Bausch went back to school and earned a master’s degree in marketing and journalism from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 1985.

A Justin Timberlake bobblehead adorns Maureen Bausch’s office window overlooking U.S. Bank Stadium. Timberlake will return to the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 4, more than a decade after his infamous performance with Janet Jackson. Photo by Tracy Walsh

From the MOA to the NFL

In 1990, the developers of a big new idea — which many in the state thought would never take off — approached her with an opportunity.

She interviewed for a director of marketing job at the then-unbuilt Mall of America.

“They eventually hired someone else for the position,” Bausch said.

But Bausch persisted.

“After a few months, I found out that person hadn’t worked out and had left, so I called them and said, ‘I’m still available.’”

Bausch started work two years before the Mall’s opening in 1992.

“My job was to convince people we were going to become a top destination for shoppers from around the world. It was a hard sell for an area previously best known for woods and water, not fashion or shopping,” Bausch said. “I would talk to any group that would listen, and I did a lot of presentations for small audiences at Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. People didn’t always believe me.”

Bausch and the Mall of America team, of course, proved the naysayers wrong.

“On our opening day, we had 150,000 attendees, and the numbers grew from there,” Bausch said.

The MOA now attracts more than 40 million people — and generates more than $2 billion in revenue — each year. During her 25 years at the mall, Bausch moved up the ranks and was eventually named the Executive Vice President of Business Development.

Then came an opportunity with Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee — a 501(c)6 nonprofit corporation tasked with welcoming the world to Minnesota for Super Bowl LII. From the promotional packages she’d helped arrange between the mall and the Vikings organization, Bausch knew the power of the NFL and the Vikings brand.

“I was intrigued by the challenge of taking on a three-year project that would culminate in such an important event for our state,” Bausch said. “Even better, I was able to create our own startup, building a staff of top talent, who willingly jumped on board, even when they all knew exactly when their last day on the job would be.”

Wendy Williams Blackshaw, the host committee’s senior vice president of marketing and sales, said Bausch is the person who’s most influenced her own exceptional marketing career, including nine years with Sun Country Airlines and seven years at the Mall of America.

“I have learned more from Maureen than anyone else I know,” Blackshaw said.

As CEO of the host committee, Bausch is responsible for strategic planning and executing all the elements of the weeklong pre-event celebration as well as engaging the community and showcasing the region to an international audience.

Her committee’s duties include security, wayfinding, snow removal, traffic and Super Bowl LIVE events and concerts. More than 10,000 volunteers — dubbed Crew 52 — will be providing support.

The pace is intense, Bausch said, but she loves the variety: “In the course of one day, I might have a meeting on hotel bookings, then one on progress with the snowmaking equipment for the (forthcoming) Birke Bridge on Nicollet Mall, then a session on preventing human trafficking or showcasing Minnesota music. I bounce from fun things to serious subjects all day long.”

One thing Bausch misses about her Mall of America job is the built-in exercise opportunity right outside her office door.

“Once around the building was one mile, and I would usually walk three miles in the course of an average a day,” she said. “I’m more deskbound in this position, so I do miss having a ‘natural’ way to exercise.”

Maureen Bausch holds a football emblazoned
with the official Super Bowl LII logo. Photo by Tracy Walsh.

Family life

The oldest of six, Bausch grew up in a family that remains close and mostly in state.

“My parents are still with us and very active,” she said. “My dad is 88 and my mom is a youthful 80-something, and they live independently in Stillwater.”

Bausch is a mother of three — Heidi, 32, Ellie, 23 and Charles, 22. After she and her first husband divorced, she was a single mother for 13 years.

“She always has had a way of making occasions uniquely meaningful,” said her oldest, Heidi, a Mendota Heights resident who is pursuing a doctorate in counseling psychology.

“She was proud of our Irish roots, and every St. Patrick’s Day we would wake to a fun and festive table with green milk, green butter and ‘pots of gold’ chocolates,” she said.

But it wasn’t all fun and games growing up, as Heidi explains when describing the positive influence her mother has had on her life.

“Her humility and care for others are enduring qualities that have been instilled in me,” she said. “Though her career soared over the years, she rarely boasted or self-promoted. She attributes her successes to the teams she works with.”

Single for many years, Bausch’s life changed when she met Bill Marzolf, president and CEO of the medical equipment distributor Anodyne, Inc.

“Three different sets of friends set us up,” she said. “We dated for 18 months and will celebrate our second wedding anniversary in April.”

The couple lives in a house on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, on which Marzolf had begun construction shortly before he met Bausch.

“Bill was instrumental in my decision to take the Super Bowl job,” Bausch said. “He told me he’d support me throughout it, and he’s been true to his word.”

Marzolf has watched in wonder.

“The breadth and scope of this project is mammoth, and I cannot imagine anyone else who is more capable and qualified to undertake it than Maureen,” he said. “Of her many outstanding qualities, one that makes her visibly successful is that she is ‘other’ focused. It’s not about her, it’s about others — and she is quick to shower them with praise and accolades whenever she can.”

And it’s not just loved ones who endorse Bausch.

Selection committee co-chair Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab, said: “She brings the skills necessary to successfully lead this effort and to showcase this vibrant, engaged community on an international stage. We have no doubt Maureen will help set the bar high for future Super Bowls.”

Minnesota marketing guru Maureen Bausch gave up her longtime job at the Mall of America to build a team of more than 30 folks tasked with hosting Super Bowl LII and the 10-day festival leading up to game day, Feb. 4. Photo courtesy of Uzoma Obasi / Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee

Countdown to victory

As that crucial Feb. 4 date draws nearer, Bausch says she’s especially looking forward to the pre-event weeks when NFL representatives, media and production companies are beginning to arrive in town.

“We are the conduit to them having a great experience here, and we want to make it easy for them to get the answers and help they need,” she said.

And while there will be some unavoidable stress in the days ahead, Bausch insists that she likes a challenge.

“I also like it when things go well, and I’m sure that’s what’s going to happen,” she said.

One major uncontrollable factor is the weather.

“I’m hoping it snows, because people who are coming here want to experience a real wintertime atmosphere,” she said. “We aren’t pretending to be Florida, so I want to show them our winter season at its best. I just hope it’s a manageable enough amount that it’s still easy to get around.”

Life-size snow globes will be part of the Super Bowl celebration.

‘Amazing’ Minnesota

Once the big day has come and gone, Bausch hopes the world will know more about Minnesota — branded “the Bold North” by the host committee, which is driving home the moniker with #boldnorth hashtags on social media.

“We want them to understand that we’re progressive, sophisticated, artistic and innovative,” she said. “The late Pat Fallon, founder and CEO of Fallon advertising agency, used to say that the word ‘amazing’ is not used enough when describing Minnesota. So I hope that ‘amazing’ becomes the new word people use to describe us.”

And what will she do when all the hullabaloo finally quiets down?

“I know I’ll be bored stiff when the phone stops ringing,” she said. “I want to make sure all the people on our staff safely land in new positions, so I’ll be making introductions and smoothing their way through those transitions.”

Then some rest and relaxation might be in order.

“Once the bills are all paid, and it’s time to turn out the lights, I have this vision of renting a villa in the south of France and going there for a month,” she said. “I could just have all my friends and relatives come to stay.”

But Bausch will eventually have to get back to work.

“This job has been absolutely wonderful,” she said, “But I’m sure I’ll find some other way to be of use to another group.”

Julie Kendrick is a contributing writer for many local and national publications. She lives in Minneapolis. Follow her on Twitter @KendrickWorks.