While Bruce Springsteen was captivating the halftime audience of Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, the Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders were doing the same for more than 10,000 fans 1,200 miles southwest in Mexico City.
The NFL and NFL Mexico invited The ROAR to Mexico City for a week of events culminating on Super Bowl Sunday with a celebration at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Raceway.
The NFL has a major presence in Mexico City with NFL Mexico, and that office is responsible for all of the NFL events in the city and the surrounding areas throughout the year. The NFL plays a preseason game each August at Azteca Stadium and the venue hosted a regular season NFL game in 2005.
Twelve of the 32 members of The ROAR squad visited Mexico City for a week of promotional appearances that included autograph sessions, meet and greets, and a cheerleading camp. And the week was capped off, of course, by the Super Bowl game. It was the 10th anniversary of the NFL Mexico's Super Bowl celebration in a city of 24 million.
The ROAR arrived on Monday, February 26 and returned to Jacksonville on Monday, February 2, the day after Pittsburgh's win over Arizona. Billboards were displayed across Mexico City promoting the group's arrival and appearance schedule throughout the week.
The trip involved as many as nine appearances each day and kicked off with a double-decker tour bus ride of the entire city with the local media on Tuesday. There were several luncheons and other appearances for all the major sponsors of NFL Mexico. In addition, The ROAR spent time dealing with the local media and made appearances on local television shows to promote the Super Bowl.
"People were so excited to see them," said Christy Zynda, Jaguars Manager, Cheerleading Programs. "They are so passionate about the NFL and the entire experience. All of the appearances were absolutely packed. It was special to just have the opportunity to share what the NFL is all about with the fans there. It was a good opportunity for our squad to experience another culture and see the power of the NFL and the Jaguars. It was nice to see how much excitement we can create in another country."
Zynda said the squad saw plenty of Jaguars supporters.
"They root for specific teams, but we'd like to think by the time we left they were all Jaguars fans," Zynda said. "It was great to see how many Jaguars fans were there and they had their jerseys and hats on and were holding their pennants. They knew who we were and knew a lot about our cheerleaders already."
Later in the week, the squad held a cheerleading day camp for more than 100 children.
"Dance is universal, so it was really fun because we were really able to communicate that way," Zynda said. "None of our cheerleaders are fluent but everyone knew enough to communicate."
Of course, the main event was Sunday when the fans packed into a raceway that was set up with five large screens to watch the game, and three stages for performers. The ROAR were joined by a local band that played throughout the night.
"Everybody was just there to celebrate the game," Zynda said. "It was pretty incredible because the fans were so excited whether they had an allegiance to either team or not. The NFL has such a huge following."
Besides performing at each Jaguars home game, The ROAR also makes more than 500 appearances each year and have included past visits to Greenland, Jamaica and numerous other locations. Members of the squad are regular visitors to military events in Jacksonville and also make several visits each year to military bases throughout the state. They are featured in various national publications including the 2008 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and produce an annual calendar that is published each August.
"They are ambassadors and role models," Zynda said. "They come to practice and games and work very hard. It was a once in a lifetime experience to do something like this and it's really the icing on the cake."
Here is a first-person perspective from several members of The ROAR on their trip to Mexico City:
Thursday - In the morning we got to shoot a TV show. It was a little bit like America's TRL. The host was very funny and entertaining and we got to dance and chat a little bit. In the afternoon we did some promotional pep rallies for some Marti stores. Marti is similar to Sports Authority or Foot Locker. Our pep rallies were PACKED! There were so many people there to see us. It was so flattering and exciting!
Friday - In the morning we did a promotion for Mitsubishi, and then in the afternoon we did a few more Marti pep rallies. The crowd participation was phenomenal! Everyone was so friendly and willing to participate in the pep rallies.
Saturday - My favorite day! We did a cheer camp in the morning which was a blast! The girls were so excited to see us and we were just as excited to see them. A lot of the girls couldn't speak English, but as soon as we started teaching them a dance routine all of us were on the same page. Dance truly is a universal language. We did a few more Marti pep rallies, and again I was floored by how great the crowd participation was. At one point we had a whole family onstage dancing with us. That afternoon we got to climb a pyramid. That was absolutely amazing. It took about 25 minutes to climb, and it was so high you could see into the distance for miles and miles.... truly a breathtaking experience.
Wednesday - We started the morning with a photo shoot for ESPN Magazine. I'm so thrilled to have been asked to be a part of it. Our pictures should show up in the March edition here in Mexico. From the magazine headquarters, we headed to a luncheon at a sports bar and restaurant for contest winners sponsored by Old Spice. I had the Mexican special and boy was it good. It consisted of grilled chicken, churizzo (spicy sausage), cheese, avocado, onion, and some other things I can't identify, all drenched in a spicy red sauce. The lunch lasted several hours and we had a blast chatting it up with the winners, who thankfully spoke English. From there, my group went to the headquarters of the El Economista, a local newspaper for an interview and photo session. I was a bit nervous about being interviewed, but as it turns out the group as a whole was asked three simple.