Lack of prime-time home games stuns Colts sponsor

April 19, 2013
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Once again, the NFL schedule-makers haven’t done Forrest Lucas any favors.

When the NFL schedules were announced Thursday night, you could hear a collective sigh coming from the city’s tourism marketing arm, Visit Indy, and the folks at Lucas Oil Co., which paid $121.5 million to have their company’s name plastered on the Colts' home venue for 20 years.

In terms of the Indianapolis Colts' 2013 schedule, at least the glass is half full.

The Colts are back in prime time after a year in the off-prime desert. But of the six prime-time games (including two in the 4 p.m. Sunday slot) on the 2013 slate, only one is at home.

Granted, that one game is a big one, an Oct. 20 Sunday night date against the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.

The other five are in San Francisco (Sept. 22), San Diego (Oct. 14), Houston (Nov. 3), Nashville (Nov. 14) and Phoenix (Nov. 24).

Those away prime-time games are wonderful for the team, Colts owner Jim Irsay and its star players, such as emerging quarterback Andrew Luck, who may use the exposure to sign a couple of national sponsorship deals. Home or away, the team still gets thrust into the prime-time spotlight, but the away games do little to showcase the city or Lucas Oil Stadium.

Lucas Oil’s deal is only as good as the exposure it gets. And this year, the prime-time exposure the company is getting has increased only one game over last year.

“I was surprised by the schedule,” Lucas Oil CEO Forrest Lucas said. “I would have thought after last year, the Colts would be off the bottom of the totem pole and we’d have gotten a few more prime-time home dates. Those prime-time [home] games are huge for us.”

Seven of eight Colts home games kick off at 1 p.m., and that’s more bad news for Lucas Oil.

“I don’t want to complain too much because the Colts and city of Indianapolis have been real, real good to us,” Lucas said, but he couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“Those early games kill our exposure on the West Coast,” he added.

The good news for Lucas is that one of the NFL’s biggest, most-talked-about games will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 20, when Denver comes calling. Kick-off for that game is 8:20 p.m., and no other games will be playing at that time.

“Everyone in the nation will be watching that one,” Lucas said. “It’s big not just for the game coverage, but the pre-game coverage as well. That gets your name out there a lot on the sports-talk radio and TV shows. And we love the night games, especially when they show the stadium from the outside. Our logo on top of the building lights up like jewelry.”

  • Just dumb
    I have no sympathy for someone who invests to put their name on a stadium if they expect to get a measurable return on that investment outside of the geographic footprint of where that stadium is located. No one cares about a stadium name, many people call stadiums by their nicknames and those outside the home market rarely have any clue what the corporate name of a stadium is.
    • re: Just Dumb
      Any corporate branding initiative (such as a name on a stadium) will always struggle in terms of actual measurable return. That's not to say there's no value, it's just very difficult to measure. I am surprise that Lucas is publicly upset, but i think he has every right to not be happy (argue whether privately or publicly) about the schedule. Certainly people outside of the market are cognizant of stadium names with corporate branding attached -- I can name several off the top of my head (Heinz Field, Coors Field, KFC Yum Center, Gillette Stadium, etc). I would argue i only know it's Gillette stadium because the Patriots are on so many primetime games, and I hear it so often. Will it make me go buy a razor? Not so sure. But can't argue that the value and name recongition is there. I'd be (privately) pissed too.
    • That's for sure
      Totally agree!
    • Get the Games Right
      Ugh, not sure who fed you the info on those games, but the Colts only have 4 primetime games, not 5... @ San Diego on 10/14, vs. Denver on 10/20, @ Houston on 11/3 and @ Tennessee on 11/14 (and this one is NFL Network, ugh). The San Fran and Arizona games are the 4:15'ish, Sunday afternoon games. Maybe check here first before writing your blog:
    • post 1 p.m. considered prime-time
      Technically, the NFL considers anything that is not 1 p.m. EST on Sunday to be prime-time. That's why they flex the best games into the 4 p.m. So that means the Colts, according to the NFL, have five prime-time games.
    • Thanks
      Thanks, Indy Guy and Matt. The actual number of prime-time games, including the TWO Sunday late afternoon games is six. You are correct, Indy Guy, if you choose not to count those games, the number is four. In my math, I chose to count those games played in the late Sunday afternoon slot because the NFL puts the more marquee match-ups in those time slots, and because more West Coast viewers tune in, the ratings (viewer #s) are higher than the 1 p.m. Sunday games. Thanks for reading.
    • Either Way... Still Wrong
      Matt... either way, still wrong. Based on that, it's 6 games... not 5. He doesn't even mention the Houston game... which is Sunday Night Football on NBC.
    • Not so fast
      Listen I am glad we found a sponser to fork over 120 mill But really I have never used "Lucas Oil" nor will I ever prob for that matter. I wish we could have gotten a cool sponser like maybe Milky Way Dome or even Papa Johns (LOL wonder if big Forehead would've still bought some papa johns stores if we would have called it that? Lol) But these guy shouldn't even be upset or discouraged because he should know that's the way NFL scheduling is and shouldn't get upset. LOL Papa Dome LOL still LMAO!!!! Go blue in 2013!!!!
    • Simple Solution
      Just auction off the rights to the Sunday night (and other games) and officially turn the scheduling over to the highest bidders.
    • Economics
      Then you understand nothing about marketing and return on investment. Be happy we have a sponsor or the taxes to support the stadium would be quadruple.
    • its a oil company
      they don't really need anymore money from us.i'm sure they have enough already.
      • Lucas Oil
        I think it was a great move by Lucas to put their name on the stadium. No one had ever heard of them before, aside from a select group in racing. Now "Lucas Oil" is considered a player.

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      Sponsored by
      1. Apologies for the wall of text. I promise I had this nicely formatted in paragraphs in Notepad before pasting here.

      2. I believe that is incorrect Sir, the people's tax-dollars are NOT paying for the companies investment. Without the tax-break the company would be paying an ADDITIONAL $11.1 million in taxes ON TOP of their $22.5 Million investment (Building + IT), for a total of $33.6M or a 50% tax rate. Also, the article does not specify what the total taxes were BEFORE the break. Usually such a corporate tax-break is a 'discount' not a 100% wavier of tax obligations. For sake of example lets say the original taxes added up to $30M over 10 years. $12.5M, New Building $10.0M, IT infrastructure $30.0M, Total Taxes (Example Number) == $52.5M ININ's Cost - $1.8M /10 years, Tax Break (Building) - $0.75M /10 years, Tax Break (IT Infrastructure) - $8.6M /2 years, Tax Breaks (against Hiring Commitment: 430 new jobs /2 years) == 11.5M Possible tax breaks. ININ TOTAL COST: $41M Even if you assume a 100% break, change the '30.0M' to '11.5M' and you can see the Company will be paying a minimum of $22.5, out-of-pocket for their capital-investment - NOT the tax-payers. Also note, much of this money is being spent locally in Indiana and it is creating 430 jobs in your city. I admit I'm a little unclear which tax-breaks are allocated to exactly which expenses. Clearly this is all oversimplified but I think we have both made our points! :) Sorry for the long post.

      3. Clearly, there is a lack of a basic understanding of economics. It is not up to the company to decide what to pay its workers. If companies were able to decide how much to pay their workers then why wouldn't they pay everyone minimum wage? Why choose to pay $10 or $14 when they could pay $7? The answer is that companies DO NOT decide how much to pay workers. It is the market that dictates what a worker is worth and how much they should get paid. If Lowe's chooses to pay a call center worker $7 an hour it will not be able to hire anyone for the job, because all those people will work for someone else paying the market rate of $10-$14 an hour. This forces Lowes to pay its workers that much. Not because it wants to pay them that much out of the goodness of their heart, but because it has to pay them that much in order to stay competitive and attract good workers.

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      5. It is sad to see these races not have a full attendance. The Indy Car races are so much more exciting than Nascar. It seems to me the commenters here are still a little upset with Tony George from a move he made 20 years ago. It was his decision to make, not yours. He lost his position over it. But I believe the problem in all pro sports is the escalating price of admission. In todays economy, people have to pay much more for food and gas. The average fan cannot attend many events anymore. It's gotten priced out of most peoples budgets.