This Story By DON MURET
Published January 14, 2008 : Page 03
The All American Football League is thinking outside the box inside the stadium.
The first-year league, targeting rabid college football fans in the spring and summer, is trying to entice sponsors to climb on board by pitching deals where advertisers can expose their brands in unique spaces on the playing field.
The AAFLs stadium inventory contains opportunities for companies to put their corporate logos on the 25-yard lines, the cushioned pads wrapping the goal posts, the nets behind the posts deployed for extra point and field goal attempts, and the end zone pylons and Dial-a-Down markers.
Temporary parking lot and stadium entrance naming rights are also fair game for advertisers, according to the proposal on the AAFLs Web site.
Advertisers at the highest level could put their logo on the field, said veteran sports marketer Ray Benton, among the two parties outside the AAFL that are selling inventory for the inaugural season.
The AAFLs 10-game regular season starts April 12 in six cities: Gainesville, Fla.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; Houston; and Detroit.
Team Florida and Team Tennessee are playing games at on-campus venues Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and Neyland Stadium. Team Michigans home games are at Ford Field, an NFL stadium.
The asking price is $100,000 to $150,000 for sponsorship packages sold on a local or regional level that cover the five regular-season games each team plays at its home venue.
We dont have a presence in enough of the major markets to make it attractive on the national level, Benton said. These are six regional businesses.
The exact inventory available in each of the six AAFL markets depends on the deals in place between the stadiums and their primary tenants, said Tim Good, president of Starboard Advertising Group, whose company is negotiating the leagues television and radio contracts.
Because of scheduling conflicts, Team Florida is also playing single games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, where the AAFL has to work around advertising agreements between the NFL Buccaneers and Jaguars and the cities that own those facilities.
Randy Bernstein, president and CEO of Premier Partnerships, has sold sponsorships for MLB and MLS teams, and said companies have to weigh the benefit of receiving on-field exposure in a sport where many other pro leagues have come and gone.
Having your brand directly identified with a failing league is something you have to take into consideration, Bernstein said
The AAFL has signed leaguewide deals with equipment and apparel producers New Balance, Schutt and Rogers Athletic, and those suppliers could expand their agreements to include on-field signs. Everything is negotiable, said Keenan Davis, AAFL vice president of business and football operations.
As of last week, league officials acknowledged that the corporate communities in AAFL markets could be waiting for the league to complete a regular-season television contract before spending their marketing dollars.
The challenge is we got started so late, Benton said. We have an awful lot to do in a short period of time.
The league has been talking to television networks about broadcasting games. We have been approached and are listening, an NFL Network source said.
The AAFL has signed deals with regional networks to air its Jan. 26 draft, originating from Turner Sports studios in Atlanta, where the league is based, Good said.
One of them, Comcast Charter Sports Southeast, based in Norcross, Ga., has 5.7 million subscribers. It covers the Alabama and Tennessee markets where those teams will play and part of Florida, Good said.
The league also did draft-day deals with regional and independent networks in Gainesville, Detroit, Houston, Little Rock and Fayetteville, Ark. Turners PlayOn Sports will provide streaming online draft coverage.
Touchdown Radio, a radio network founded in 2007 by Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta, will air an AAFL game of the week, Good said.
Touchdown Radio is syndicated nationally in 150 to 200 cities and has relationships with the local networks that broadcast college games in AAFL markets.
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