Oh, and it's interactive.
That's the scouting report on the National Football League's newest high-tech marketing weapon-the NFL Pass and Play Network, an ad-supported kiosk that plans to tackle consumers in supermarkets, drugstores and retail chains nationwide next year.
Boxy and over six feet tall, the kiosk is a combination in-store ad vehicle, coupon dispenser and casino-like game machine. It costs nothing to use and always spits out a prize, from coupons to NFL merchandise to Super Bowl tickets.
More than 200 machines will be used in a test this fall; the na-tionwide rollout will employ thousands of machines.
NFL Pass and Play Network was developed jointly by the NFL and U C'n Win Systems, an Ontario, Canada, maker of interactive gaming systems. A year in the making, the machine will be formally introduced to advertisers and their agencies this summer.
NFL sponsors such as McDonald's Corp., Coca-Cola Co., Frito-Lay, Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Upper Deck Co. will have first crack at the system. On the retail front, the NFL is pursuing the likes of J.C. Penney Co., McDonald's and Shell Oil Co. It even plans to approach cruise lines.
And though no deals have been signed yet, NFL Pass and Play Network could be the Holy Grail that has so far eluded mass-market kiosks: a fun, user-friendly technology for consumers; an efficient and effective in-store tool for marketers; and a relatively hassle-free vehicle for retailers to boost traffic.
"No kiosk based exclusively on advertising support has ever worked," said Tom Leonard, a fan but also vocal critic of kiosks as director for multimedia research at Inteco Corp., Norwalk, Conn. "It sounds ambitous and risky, but an idea like this sounds like it may actually work."
For the NFL, the kiosk represents a way to reach fans year-round.
"We are interested in exploring new technologies that will allow our fans to get closer to the NFL and give our sponsors an alternate means to deliver their message-and our message-in a fun way," said Jim Schwebel, VP-marketing for NFL Properties.
Fun. That seems to be the key word here.
"One of the major reasons why kiosks have come and gone is that, essentially, they were not inviting for the consumer. We wanted to make this one fun," said Ian Medad, CEO of U C'n Win Systems.
At rest, the Pass and Play Network screen displays the logos of participating advertisers, retailers and NFL teams-so ad impressions are made even when consumers aren't using the kiosk, Mr. Medad said.
To start, users insert an electronically coded card and are then given a choice of four games they can play: A slot machine (match four Coca Cola logos, for example, and win a case of Coke); a lottery-like popping ball game (four Shell Oil balls, in another example, wins a free tank of gas); and a kick-a-football and pass-a-football game (prizes depends on the yardline on which the ball lands).
Play the slot machine and a Vanna White-like electronic voice says, "Around it goes" as advertiser logos roll by, slowly enough, of course, for each to be seen and make an impression. If players "lose"-if four different logos pop up-the machine will print out coupons for each sponsor on the screen.
Consumers can win NFL merchandise, a $100 spending spree at the participating store, even a trip to the Super Bowl.
"We're tapping into the excitement of the NFL and playing games. And in games, you win things," said Mr. Medad. "It brings the fun element into shopping. You don't expect to have fun at supermarkets. You expect to wait in lines, you expect to spend more money than you want."
Kiosk game cards will be distributed through a direct mail campaign and at participating retailers.
Before the NFL Pass and Play Network goes national next year, U C'n Win and the NFL will begin a six-month test this fall in Atlanta, Phoenix and Pittsburgh. U C'n Win Systems is negotiating with national and regional retail chains. Retailers receive category exclusivity and a fee for carrying the machines.
In July, U C'n Win and the NFL will begin negotiating with national and local NFL sponsors. Advertisers can create national promotions or customized offers for each market. Since the network is online, advertisers can be dropped or added with ease. Ad packages for the test will not exceed $50,000.
Mr. Leonard said luring national advertisers will be key to the program's success, because local advertisers alone won't cover costs.
The NFL must also try to avoid system glitches that have doomed many kiosk initiatives.
"Consumers won't complain to U C'n Win. They'll complain to the retailer, or McDonald's-the very people that can't fix the problems," Mr. Leonard said. "Too many complaints, and they'll just get rid of the machines."