AFL expands ad playbook

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The Arena Football League, trying to boost its awareness and meager viewing numbers in its second NBC-broadcast season, will take its message to movie theaters, mass retailers, sports magazines, the Internet and guy-centric events. The off-channel effort, which will include a two-minute spot starring Hall of Famer John Elway and rocker Jon Bon Jovi and appearing in movie houses, is a first for the league. The former Denver Bronco quarterback is co-owner of the AFL's Colorado Crush; Mr. Bon Jovi is co-owner of the new AFL team, Philadelphia Soul.

Several sponsors of the indoor football league-the U.S. Army, Spalding, ADT Security Services and Aaron's retail chain-also plan AFL-themed advertising, promotion and consumer offers, in contrast to their first season sponsorships, which consisted of on-air media and stadium signage only. The AFL also has inked a partnership deal with Fantasy Football, the online gaming community of some 15 million players.

"We're trying to build critical mass and broaden our footprint," said Glenn Horine, exec VP, AFL Properties. "We have to fill out our marketing portfolio to do that."

The in-theater spot, created by NBC's in-house marketing division The Agency, will launch in January on 5,000 Regal Cinema screens. It will play in front of male-skewing movies in hopes of piquing interest in the 18- to 34-year-old football fan looking for a post-Super Bowl fix.

"If you put the product up there on the big screen and make it fun and entertaining and rock and roll, then it can get you some sampling," said Cliff Marks, president-marketing and sales at Regal CineMedia Corp.


Mr. Bon Jovi, whose band is signed to Universal Music Group, said he's working some synergy with his label and the sibling studio division to make music videos and film clips a part of the AFL shows.

"The AFL has a lack of presence in the marketplace," Mr. Bon Jovi said. "We're trying to change that with all the resources we can bring to bear."

The spot plays off the indoor sport by having Mr. Elway's team and Mr. Bon Jovi's team turn a house into a playing field. Wreckage ensues.

A version of the spot will run on NBC, in 550 Champs Sporting Goods stores and in-store on the Premiere Retail Network, airing in high-traffic chains like Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Best Buy.

AFL's first broadcast season registered a 1.1 national average rating, well short of the 1.5 rating promised advertisers, forcing make-goods.

AFL's off-channel efforts will include Internet ads, radio, print and cable TV, via Margeotes Fertitta & Partners, New York, for the season that begins in February.

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