Tag Archives: NFL

Jacksonville Fights Off Blackouts with Attendance Boost

24 Nov

Six months ago, murmurs of relocation plagued the Jacksonville (Fla.) Jaguars. Noise of the team’s struggles to sell tickets, problems connecting with their fan base and the Jaguars’ inability to avoid TV blackouts grew beyond a hum.

Jacksonville finished last season selling less than 80 percent of available seats at Everbank Field, ranking 30th of 32 National Football League teams in attendance, according to league records. The team plays in a flooded Florida sports market and are in one of the most difficult divisions in the NFL, the AFC South. The division includes the Super Bowl runner-up Indianapolis Colts, who nearly went undefeated last season, and the long-successful Tennessee Titans.

Jaguars SVP Macky Weaver said the 2010 season is viewed by the organization as a crossroads: either bring fans in or accept the possibility of relocation, possibly to Los Angeles. “We had a difficult season in 2009,” Weaver said. “It was time for this city to decide if they wanted a team.”

Halfway through 2010, Weaver calls the city’s response to the ultimatum a “resounding yes.”  Jacksonville’s attendance has increased by more than 14,000 per game from the mid-point of the NFL season last year, by far the biggest increase in the league. Since their Sept. 12 trouncing of the Denver Broncos, the team has sold out the 63,047-seat stadium and avoided a league-mandated blackout for all home games.

Sixteen of the league’s 32 teams have seen attendance losses thus far in 2010, some around five percent. San Diego, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and St. Louis are averaging 4,000 fewer fans per game than through nine weeks last season, according to the NFL. Overall attendance is down 0.5 percent, averaging around 350 fewer fans per game, or 11,515 total. If you subtract the Jaguars’ attendance boom, the other 31 teams are down more than one percent.

Jacksonville has been insistent on learning lessons from other teams’ failures. The team looked deep into its fan base’s needs by conducting focus groups during the offseason.

“As you could imagine, number one across the board on everyone’s list is quality of play and the direction of the team, which from a business side we don’t have a lot of control over,” Weaver said. “But, the number two thing was feeling valued by the team and organization. We took a step back and looked at that component because we can affect that. Trying to establish a value proposition for our fans for buying tickets outside of just being able to come to the games. Looking for opportunities to engage with the team to get value outside of what happens on Sunday.”

Jacksonville attributes part of the attendance jump to unique season ticket incentive packages. “We created a book where if you are a season ticket holder you receive a coupon book that has about $2,500 in value,” Weaver said. “You get $10 to $20 off local restaurants, $50 at some of the nicer ones, it really adds some outside value to being a season ticket holder, which our fans appreciated and it helped motivate some people to get back on the bandwagon.”

Despite being plus 14,000 in attendance, there will still be struggles in the second half of the season.  Traditionally, NFL attendance numbers slip as teams fall out of contention (which is possible for the 5-4 Jaguars). At 2009 season’s end, the average leaguewide attendance was 65,043, and at the halfway point of ’09, the average NFL game was drawing close to 68,000 per game.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL expects no different this season. “(It) continues to be our projection that paid attendance for the season will be down one to two percent,” Aiello said.

Jacksonville isn’t the only team trying to uphold strong attendance numbers. Detroit has seen the second biggest boost, bringing in nearly 5,000 more fans per home game than at this point last season.  Washington and Miami have drawn 2,700 or more above last year’s mid-season totals, according to league attendance figures. Indianapolis, Tennessee and Philadelphia have also performed well, averaging more than 100 percent of capacity.

Keeping Jacksonville in the success category and relocation noise mute, Weaver said, rests on the shoulders of attendance numbers.

“It’s all interconnected; attendance, ratings on TV, they all drive other revenue opportunities from sponsorships to merchandise to concessions sales,” Weaver said. “It is an important cog in the wheel to make sure we are successful everywhere we can be and that we compete with other teams in the NFL.” — Matthew Coller

Interviewed for this article: Macky Weaver, (904) 633-6207; Greg Aiello, (212) 450-2000

 

NFL Considers Move to 18-Week Schedule

9 Sep

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that he will push for a longer schedule, expanding the regular season from 16 to 18 games while shortening the pre-season from four games to two. The expansion would tack two games onto the end of the season, pushing the regular season into mid-January, with a Super Bowl taking place in the second half of February.

The plan faces objections from some players, facilities and other sports properties, but according to radio host Matthew Coller of Rochester, N.Y., the proposal could add $500 million to the league’s bottom line.

“The NFL makes approximately $4.5 billion on TV contracts alone. If you add two more games that’s essentially like adding 12 percent more to the season,” he said. “ESPN alone pays about $1 billion to have the NFL.”

The proposed expanded schedule is expected to be a bargaining chip during the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players association, whose contract expires before the start of the next season. While the NFL Players Association has not taken a position against an expanded schedule, many individual players have spoken out, arguing that adding two games each year could potentially shorten a player’s career. Some fans have expressed opposition to an expanded schedule, Coller said, arguing that it could push up the price of tickets and add more end-of-season games that don’t matter. Last season, the Indianapolis Colts benched their starters for the final three games of the season after locking up a playoff berth, disappointing many fans who hoped the team would be competitive all season long. Plus two more games in January might be a hard sell to fans who live in colder climates like Green Bay, Wis., or Buffalo, N.Y.

For NFL venues, the new schedule could present a challenge to the already full booking calendar for many stadiums.

“We do a lot of business that time of year,” said Mark Miller, GM for Reliant Park in Houston. “We have a boat show, an auto show, a home show and many other trade shows.”

Doug Thornton, GM for the Superdome and senior VP for SMG, said that adding additional games isn’t particularly lucrative for stadiums.

“The net revenues generated from football events in our facilities go back to the team,” Thornton said. “It won’t be impactful to us either way as it relates to individual games. It will be impactful if we cannot host events that we would traditionally host during that period.”

Thornton said an expanded schedule could interfere with long-standing Mardi Gras events. The New Orleans tradition is based on the Easter calendar and doesn’t fall on the same dates each year. His tenant team, the New Orleans Saints, is expected to play far into the post season this year — the team won last year’s Super Bowl and quarterback Drew Brees is the highest rated player in the NFL.

Plus there’s the National Basketball Association’s All-Star game, which takes place weeks after football wraps up, and NASCAR and professional golf also host high profile events in February. Most sports would be loath to compete against the NFL. Last year’s Super Bowl was the highest rated television show of all time, drawing 106 million viewers. Often, an NFL preseason game can draw the same television rating as a World Series game.

Miller said he doubted that an expanded schedule would affect Reliant Stadium’s other tenant, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but he did add that it might affect the stadium’s ability to host future Super Bowls.

Also watching the NFL schedule closely is Ken Hudgens of Feld Motorsports. The company typically tours Supercross and Monster Jam during those months, and said it’s spent years building a fan base around early winter shows.

“Right now, in the places that we’re playing stadium-wise that have NFL teams, we’re either working around their schedules in the off-week between the NFC-AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, or we’re rolling the dice in places like the Georgia Dome (Atlanta) and Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego) and hoping that a home playoff game doesn’t bump us out,” he said.

Goodell is expected to push the expanded schedule during the next round of collective bargaining talks, Coller explained, “because they hold all of the cards. Their $4.5 billion in TV contracts are guaranteed, whether the players play or not. The NFL still gets the money, while the players will be sitting on their hands not earning a dime” if they get locked out.

Regardless of what happens, Thornton said many facilities will work to give the NFL whatever it wants.

“Rest assured that we’ll make it work,” Thornton said. “As facility managers, it’s not who you book, it’s who you move around the schedule.” — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Matthew Coller, (585) 943-8110; Mark Miller, (832) 667-1775; Doug Thornton, (504) 587-3827; Ken Hudgens, (630) 566-6200

Short Takes

30 May

>> SUPERBOWL GOES TO N.J. — The National Football League has announced its 2014 Super Bowl will be played at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The league decided to return the winter game to a cold weather locale during its annual owners meetings at the new Cowboys Stadium in Irving, Texas.
Contact: Steve Bornstein, (212) 450-2000

>> U2 CANCELS REMAINDER OF U.S. TOUR — Irish rock superstars U2 have canceled their remaining US Tour after lead singer Bono suffered an injury. Currently on the second leg of its stadium tour, most of the dates will be rescheduled for 2011. The band has also canceled plans to headline the Glastonbury Festival in the UK.
Contact: Liz Morentin, (310) 975-6860