Fliers from Redskins cross line, literally

October 07, 2006|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun reporter

John Ziemann is about the last person you'd expect to be mailed a Washington Redskins season-ticket solicitation.

For one, Ziemann lives in Harford County, which is off-limits to the Redskins under an NFL agreement that outlines the Maryland counties in which the Ravens and Redskins - as well as their sponsors - are permitted to market. Also, Ziemann happens to be president of the Ravens' marching band.

He was surprised when letters arrived a few months ago to him and some of his Jarrettsville neighbors pitching a "pre-sale" of Redskins 2007 season tickets to customers of Bank of America, a Redskins sponsor.

"I thought, `They're barking up the wrong tree with this boy,'" Ziemann said.

Ziemann and other Ravens fans received Redskins-related promotions and solicitations that appear to violate a 2004 agreement in which the NFL divided the Baltimore-Washington region into "purple" and "burgundy." The teams say a mistake was made with the mailing, but not a malicious one.

The Redskins were given exclusive rights to Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland. The Ravens got the rest of the state, including, of course, Harford County.

The boundary lines apply to sales or promotions using team symbols and cover everything from team-related pizza topping giveaways to billboards to mailed solicitations.

When Ziemann, 59, received the Redskins' promotion, he did what other loyal Ravens fans may well have done - he turned the Redskins in. Ziemann sent the flier to the Ravens, where it ended up with Dick Cass, team president, and Dennis Mannion, senior vice president for business ventures.

Mannion said he was familiar with the flier.

"One came to my home, too," said the Baltimore County resident. He sent the flier to the league. "We haven't heard back yet," he said.

Ravens officials say other Redskins solicitations have crossed into Ravens territory, too, including a Sports Illustrated insert with Redskins advertising that was received by subscribers of the magazine in Baltimore County.

The Ravens say such incursions are inevitable.

"I personally don't think this is ever going to be able to be policed because we are just too intertwined geographically," Mannion said.

Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said the team did not intentionally cross into Ravens turf.

"This is an inexact science when other people [besides the Redskins] are doing the distribution," Swanson said. "If it's a concern they have, they should give us a call."

With respect to the Bank of America mailer, Swanson said in an e-mail: "I am told it was sent by Bank of America to their mailing list, which was supposed to have been sorted to exclude Ravens-area addresses, although that is an inexact operation."

Bank of America did not dispute the Redskins' account. The bank said it had sought counsel from the NFL with respect to which ZIP codes to exclude.

"This honest mistake resulted from the fluid nature of how markets are divided," Bank of America spokesman Joe Goode said. "There is no unsportsmanlike conduct at play here."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said he wasn't familiar with the Bank of America case and had no comment. If the league discovered a violation, "it would be a matter that would be handled internally by the league office and the club and would extend to their particular sponsors," McCarthy said.

Most likely, the league would issue a warning and then work to halt any offending practices it uncovered, league officials said.

The teams have overlapping fan bases and have had skirmishes in the past over marketing and other issues. Ravens officials say they don't want to confront the Redskins over this recent lapse.

"I don't regard this as that big of a deal," Cass said. "It might be irritating to our fans. If you're a big Ravens fan, you're not going to want to get a Redskins mailing in your mailbox, and vice versa."

When Ziemann got the letter, he said he thought a Ravens band member was "playing a joke."

Formerly with the Colts' marching band, he has been associated with Baltimore football teams for 44 years. "The Redskins are not my team and never will be," he said.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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