How Insurance Makes the Super Bowl Happen

Football teams face off at the line of scrimmage, waiting for the snap.

Martin Ridgers has had some of the best backstage passes to the Super Bowl you can possibly get. Well, sort of.

Ridgers is owner of MKR, LLC, in New York City, and he has worked as an underwriter on at least 10 Super Bowls, not to mention multiple Olympic Games and World Cups. When you’re involved in making everything run smoothly, you work extensively behind the scenes, which also means you get access to a lot of information about the event before everyone else.

The past few Super Bowls have presented unique insurance challenges, from a power outage in New Orleans to a looming snowstorm in New York City.

“You can’t exactly run massive snow plows through a stadium,” Ridgers says. “So six weeks before the 2014 game, they figured they needed about 3,000 people to remove the snow. The snow never came, but they still needed to be prepared and get those people cleared and ready to be called in if needed.”

An NFL game is a complicated beast with a lot of moving parts. A big part of Ridgers' job is identifying everything that could be a potential risk or liability — and he welcomes the challenge.

“If there’s a chance an exposure could have a big impact, there’s a product out there for it,” Ridgers says. “You need enthusiasm more than anything else. You have to want to do a good job.”

Ridgers talked with MyPath about how he got into the entertainment insurance business and why he’s stayed, as well as why insuring a Super Bowl halftime show can be just as complicated as the game itself.

MyPath: What’s involved in insuring an NFL game? Break it down for us.

Ridgers: When you’re putting on an event, it’s almost like starting a new business each time. You have to figure out how it will be put together, looking at things like toilets, water availability, security, vendors, maintenance, etc.

Then you have to look at insuring the players. In some professional sports, players are considered independent contractors. In the NFL, all players are employees. That means they have workers compensation coverage and other insurance, but they also sign waivers and releases.

MyPath: Does the insurance coverage vary from team to team?

Ridgers: Yes. The first thing you want to look at is if the team is responsible for the venue or not. For example, some teams are not responsible for the stadium where they play. So the main focus is on insuring the liability and events on the field and the activity of players off the field when they’re acting on behalf of the team.

Other teams oversee the venue in addition to the team. So from an insurance perspective, you’re looking at exposures involving the stadium — everything from who’s selling t-shirts or hot dogs to jet flyovers, restaurants and liquor liability, security and maintenance contractors — along with everything that’s happening on the field.

MyPath: How is the Super Bowl different from a regular season game?

Ridgers: A huge event like the Super Bowl involves considerably more planning and insurance, specifically coverage like cancellation insurance and weather insurance.

The halftime show is another big thing insurers have to look at closely.

MyPath: What liabilities are involved with the halftime show?

Ridgers: It depends on the specifics of the show. There are a lot of dancers and performers to keep track of. Are they using pyrotechnics? Does the stage move or change while performers are out there? A lot of times they send out risk control people to watch early rehearsals to determine the exposures.

MyPath: So you knew who was playing this year before everyone else?

Ridgers: If I do, I can’t say, but I’ve worked as a trusted partner with the NFL and they entrust certain people and markets with information before it’s released to the public, so that we can partner with them to determine the exposures and cost.

MyPath: How did you get into the insurance industry?

Ridgers: I got into the industry because my dad was a broker. I didn’t think I’d end up in insurance wearing a suit, but I ended up in insurance wearing a suit.

MyPath: Any advice for people looking to get into the entertainment sector of the insurance industry?

Ridgers: At the big firms, you’re probably more likely to get hired to work in the entertainment sector from the brokerage side than the underwriting side. That’s not 100 percent true, but it’s more likely. While it’s very interesting, it’s nowhere near as big an industry sector as something like aviation or cyber insurance.

That said, the main thing is you have to be good about knowing a little bit about a lot of different kinds of coverage. For example, my main expertise is in casualty and marine, but I still have to know enough about other coverages to best serve my clients. You have to be good at thinking in the third person — figuring out the main concerns and needs of the other individual or organization.

MyPath: What do you like most about your job?

Ridgers: I love what I do. I think insurance helps people a lot, although we’re often treated as the bad guys in the media and whatnot. It’s about helping people deal with exposures to things that concern them most — whether that’s a power outage during the Super Bowl, life insurance or protecting them against a fire in their home.