How the 'I'm Going to Disney World' Super Bowl Ad Started

February 7, 2021, 1:31 AM · Disney will not host its traditional post-game Super Bowl victory parade at Walt Disney World or Disneyland this year, due to the pandemic. But the company is still planning to film its "I'm Going to Disney World!" TV commercial featuring one of the stars of the game, immediately after their big win.

But how did this tradition get started? In our 2013 interview, former Disneyland President Jack Lindquist gave us the answer:

"Michael Eisner and [his wife] Jane were having dinner at the Plaza Inn on the night that they opened Star Tours, and they were hosting Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who'd just flown around the world in that small plane. Jane Eisner said, 'My gosh, you folks have flown around the world nonstop, what are you going to do next?' And [Jeana] said, 'we're going to Disneyland!' Jane turned to Michael and said, 'That's a good phrase, remember it.'

"After dinner, Michael came outside and found me and Tom Elrod, the VP of marketing at Walt Disney World. So Tom and I talked about how we could use [the line.] We said there's a Super Bowl game in about three weeks: Denver versus the New York Giants, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. What if we had the MVP from that game, right at the end of the game, on the field, say 'I'm going to Disney World! I'm going to Disneyland!' Can we make that happen?

"We went to the NFL, went to NBC, and then we talked about who would be the MVP. We decided that the quarterbacks would be the best bet. So we went to Phil Simms and John Elway and their agents and started negotiating. We signed both of them, and as it worked out, Phil Simms was the MVP. We shot it as soon as the game ended, when they were on the field. And overnight, we got it to the Today Show, where we bought time for the next morning, as well as on Good Morning America and the CBS Morning News. And the thing that happened, it got picked up and ran on news shows all over the country, gratis.

"Then we went to the World Series and did the same thing. We went to the Indianapolis 500. We went to the NBA Finals. People expected those commercials immediately following a major sporting event. And it all came from remarks that a young lady made to Jane Eisner. Jane deserves all the credit for recognizing that was a great advertising line."

'I'm going to Disneyland' had become a viral meme - when no one outside of academic and the military had heard of the Internet and a couple years before the World Wide Web was anything but a spark in Tim Berners-Lee's imagination.

Disney usually has the designated athlete say both resorts' names, so it can air a different version of the commercial on each coast, to market the closer parks. But with Disneyland closed right now due to Covid-19 rules in California, this year's winner likely will have just one resort's name to say.

And while in the early years of the campaign, pitchmen might show up at the parks months after their win, eventually Disney started its tradition of keeping the market buzz going by flying members of the Super Bowl winning-team to the nearest Disney resort immediately after the game, for a parade the next day.

With this year's Super Bowl in Tampa, that would have been a quick trip up Interstate 4 to the Walt Disney World Resort. But the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes made the Disney trip last year, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Tom Brady has visited Disney as Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots more times than anyone outside of the Boston area cares to admit. So it's not like either of this year's Super Bowl starting quarterbacks will be missing a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Update: And here are this year's winners, Rob Gronkowski and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady... who's been to Disney World now more often than some annual passholders. Gronk's actually going to be in the parks on Monday, with Brady's visit coming sometime later.

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Replies (2)

February 8, 2021 at 11:34 AM

Hey Tom Brady! You support a proud racist and traitor who tried to overthrow the US Government! Where are you going next ... so I can be sure not to be there!"

February 8, 2021 at 6:08 PM

@thecolonel - So dramatic! So puritanical! So silly!

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