Practice jersey ads could boost Colts

June 15, 2009

Less than a month after National Football League officials announced teams can sell an ad on players' practice jerseys, Indianapolis Colts officials are optimistic they can close a six-figure deal before training camp kicks off in Terre Haute Aug. 2. "We have proposals out there, and interest is pretty high," said Tom Zupancic, Colts senior vice president of sales and marketing. The jersey ad has broad appeal, Zupancic said. "It could be for a retail operation or branding in just about any category," he said. Sports marketers said the practice jersey ads would be ideal for local or regional firms, and estimated a deal will wind up in the mid-six-figure range in a market like Indianapolis. Similar deals in markets like Chicago, Dallas or New York would likely command high six figures or low seven figures. Proceeds would stay with the franchise rather than being added to the NFL revenue-sharing pot.

The Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans are among the teams seriously considering practice-jersey sponsor deals.

The NFL mandates that the ads be no larger than 3-1/2 inches by 4-1/2 inches. They can't be worn on game jerseys, even in the preseason, and can't advertise for tobacco, alcohol or firearm companies. The NFL is allowing deals with state lotteries, but Zupancic didn't tip his hand on that prospect.

The only time the ads would be visible to fans would be during open training-camp sessions. But NFL officials think sponsors will pay for the small spots so they show up during media shots and post-practice interviews.

The jersey sponsorship opportunity is coming at an ideal time for the Colts, who lost Chevrolet as the southeast corner sponsor at Lucas Oil Stadium and a handful of other smaller sponsors following last season. The Colts sales staff will have to hustle, Zupancic said, to match last year's sponsorship sales revenue. In 2008, the first in Lucas Oil Stadium, sponsorship revenue was up about 30 percent from the previous year.

"I don't think we'll have a major downfall," Zupancic said. "But you can definitely tell there's an [economic] pinch."

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