Lack of prime-time home games stuns Colts sponsor

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.”

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