Is Casino Gambling on Ad Takeover of Knicks, Rangers Games?

Foxwoods to Own Last Five Minutes of Basketball, Hockey Broadcasts on MSG Cable Network

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NEW YORK ( -- Foxwoods Resort Casino is betting that the last five minutes of a sporting event -- which can be the most-watched if the game is still competitive and, with natural stoppages in play and timeouts, can last a lot longer than five minutes of real time -- will pay off for its ad efforts.

But is it risking turning off fans with an ubiquitous presence?

Connecticut-based Foxwoods has entered into a five-year, $1 million sponsorship agreement with Madison Square Garden in New York called the "Foxwoods Final Five," a platform that provides Foxwoods with exclusive advertising rights to the final five minutes of New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils home-game telecasts on the MSG cable TV network and its sibling station, MSG Plus. The platform also extends in-arena at Madison Square Garden for Knicks and Rangers games.

"We are absolutely not worried -- the sports fans that are glued to the TV set or experiencing the game in Madison Square Garden during a close game are excited for the action, not angry because of the advertisements," said Rob Victoria, chief marketing officer of Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Mr. Victoria said all the marketing -- from TV commercials to in-game live reads at the arena -- will allow Foxwoods to convey a variety of different ideas. The casino, which has a 4,000-seat theater, a comedy club, bowling alley and more than 30 restaurants, will continue with its "Wonder of It All" tagline and campaign, though Mr. Victoria said Foxwoods' agency, Boston-based Mullen, will be developing new spots to run during the final five minutes of games.

Research by Foxwoods and MSG showed that ratings for Knicks and Rangers games rose an average of almost 25% during the last 15 minutes of the game.

With New York City less than three hours by car from Foxwoods, "this partnership was a no-brainer for us," Mr. Victoria said.

But others aren't so sure.

"I think something like this will benefit them in close games and be worthless in blowouts, so I see it as more of a wash," said Brian Frederick, executive director of the Sports Fans Coalition, an advocacy group that acts on behalf of sports fans. "I think fans wouldn't necessarily object to the content of the ads, though some passionate fans will undoubtedly get sick of seeing the same ads over and over. I think the main objection would be if they are affecting the length of the game, which they don't seem to do."

Mr. Frederick also questioned how far-reaching the Foxwoods Final Five ads will be since Cablevision Corp., which owns Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and the Rangers, has withheld the MSG HD channel from other carriers such as Verizon Fios and Dish Network.

Foxwoods has been making a big push in the New York metro area in the last year, becoming the jersey sponsor of the WNBA's New York Liberty, securing naming rights to the Foxwoods Theatre in Times Square (formerly the Hilton Theater) and partnering with the New York Racing Association on three major graded-stakes horse races.

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