By early 2014, if Dan Burgner gets his way, Las Vegas’ high-wattage skyline will have a shiny new ornament: The world’s tallest branded observation wheel.
Burgner’s company, Caruso Affiliated, is the development agent for the High Roller, a digital-age Ferris wheel whose 28 passenger pods not only promise to whisk 40 visitors 550 feet into the desert sky but also to deliver a bolt of brand awareness. The developer is selling six levels of sponsorship—including “in-cabin branding” via video screens, and the name of the wheel itself. “Right now it’s called the High Roller, but it doesn’t need to stay that way,” Burgner said.
If this story feels a bit circuitous, there’s a reason. Two other big wheels have made news in the past year: the New York Wheel and SkyVue Las Vegas, which also promised to give brands a profitable whirl. But there was too much spin. Protracted hearings put the brakes on New York’s wheel until just last week, while the fiscally challenged SkyVue halted construction last year.
So the High Roller will turn first, with the $550 million tab and 300,000 square feet of retail space having already been committed by Caesars Entertainment.
But is the big wheel a smart bet? It all depends, said Joe DePreta, CMO of Pearl Media, which specializes in large-format outdoor displays.
“Las Vegas is a sensory assault,” he said. “The opportunity is inside the passenger cars.”