One of the Super Bowl’s most famous and long-established traditions has nothing do with football, let alone the NFL. Every year, the Super Bowl MVP proclaims “I’m going to Disney World!” to an audience of hundreds of millions of viewers.
Twelve months ago, Patrick Mahomes pledged to visit the “House of Mouse” after leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a 31-20 win over the San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV, which clinched the franchise’s first Vince Lombardi Trophy in 50 years.
For Mahomes it was the coronation of a dream he had shared with the public seven years earlier, just days after the Baltimore Ravens defeated the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
“I bet it feels amazing to be the quarterback who says “I’m going to Disney World” after winning the Super Bowl,” Mahomes tweeted on February 6, 2013.
The Chiefs quarterback eventually got to live his dream a year ago and could do again on Sunday, if Kansas City defeats the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV in Florida.
Mahomes was just the latest in a string of NFL stars who have delivered the famous message, that is part of a tradition that stretches back to 1987.
Legend has it the pledge to visit Disney World is the fruit of a casual dinner conversation between Hollywood legend George Lucas, former Paramount Pictures CEO Michael Eisner and his wife—Jane Breckenridge—as well as Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who made headlines as the first couple to fly around the world non-stop.
As per Disney-focused website Inside the Magic, during the meal Eisner directed a simple question to Rutan and Yeager.
“Now that you’ve accomplished the pinnacle of your aspirations, what could you possibly do next?,” asked Eisner, who served as Walt Disney CEO between 1984 and 2005,
Rutan swiftly replied: “I’m going to Disneyland.”
The remark struck a chord with Eisner’s wife, who mentioned to her husband it could make for a great marketing slogan.
Eisner set the wheels in motion and a marketing campaign, officially named “What’s Next?”, was launched in 1987 just in time for Super Bowl XXI.
Shortly after the New York Giants defeated the Denver Broncos 39-20 in Pasadena, California, Giants quarterback Phil Simms was approached by a camera crew and asked: “What’s next?”
The reply would establish a tradition as Simms quipped: “I’m going to Disney World.”
Simms featured in a series of Disney commercials as part of the campaign and he was invited to stay at one of the company’s theme parks—Disney World and Disneyland have both been used—where Super Bowl MVPs are treated to a short parade in their honour down Main Street, U.S.A.
While players aren’t obliged to participate, most of them have taken up the offer to a trip to one of the Disney Parks, albeit with some notable exceptions.
Following Super Bowl XXXV, Ravens quarterback attended in place of MVP Ray Lewis, who had been on trial for murder a year earlier, while Tom Brady starred in the commercial after Super Bowl LI but passed his invite to visit Disney World to teammate James White—who scored the game-winning touchdown as the New England Patriots erased 28-3 deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.