Army-Navy all it can be?

Academies: Game could grow with new venue, corporate sponsorship


July 18, 2008|By Stefen Lovelace | Stefen Lovelace,Sun Reporter

It's not going to be called the General Motors Army-Navy Game, but the academies are considering their options when it comes to the sponsorship and location of one of the nation's most storied college football matchups.

The game is under contract for Philadelphia through 2009, but Army-Navy could get a new venue after that, with Baltimore a bidder. As for sponsorship, the schools are interested but not committed to landing one.

"We're looking at a presenting sponsor, but it's not going to be the 'X Army-Navy game,' " Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. "There's a couple of ways to look at it. There's the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and the other way would be 'The Army-Navy game, presented by X company.'"

The idea of having a sponsor is still in its infancy, and there's no guarantee there will be any deal in place.

"We're testing the waters to see if it's something we should consider," Gladchuk said. "There could be someone that's interested in being a presenting sponsor that we don't feel comfortable with. It's an exercise in due diligence to see if a presenting sponsor is worth consideration."

Gladchuk said that so far there have been early discussions with General Motors, but no decisions or commitments have been made.

Army athletic director Kevin Anderson said after a regular-season game at Texas A&M that he realized adding a sponsor would be a lucrative idea.

"What really brought it to our attention is we had people approach us asking if they could be a presenter of our game against Texas A&M in San Antonio," Anderson said. "That being a regular-season football game, we sat down with Navy and said we're missing an opportunity here and we should look at this strongly. The Naval Academy agreed that we had potential to get the right sponsor for the game and do the right thing for us."

The academies feel sponsorship could make a big game even bigger.

"I think if you went around and polled the American public, they would say that this is almost a kickoff to bowl season," Anderson said. "I think that both institutions' philosophy was to find the right partner that represents the right thing that will continue to promote the game in a positive light."

Don Hinchey, vice president of communications for the Bonham Group sports and entertainment marketing firm, based in Denver, said: "It makes a lot of sense, both from a financial standpoint and a marketing standpoint. The game will benefit from the marketing support that the corporate sponsor can provide in terms of advertising and run-ups to the game on broadcasts and cable networks. It'll probably also benefit from ticket-sale support, in addition to exposure.

"From the sponsor side, the obvious one, is it's coming into a relatively uncluttered and pristine environment. The sponsor would gain a prestigious reputation with two storied programs in college football, and by extension, with their fan bases and gain the respect of the armed services."

There also might be no deal at all if the sponsor doesn't present the game in the right context.

"We're not looking for someone to slap on a lot of logos. This has to be in good taste," Anderson said. "Our philosophy is, although this does generate revenue for us, it's what's right for the game and the American public. We're going to set the parameters very clearly, and they'll have to abide by this to work with us."

Along with a possible sponsor, the game will be opening bidding for different cities to host the game. The game has been held in Baltimore four times, with the most recent occasions at M&T Bank Stadium in 2000 and 2007, and there's hope that the game will be back here again.

"It's a great event for the city and the state," said Ravens president Dick Cass. "It brings a lot of people into the city and showcases what Baltimore has to offer. I think the fact that we've had two recent Army-Navy games here and we've done well, and the event has went off really well, gives us a fighting chance to get another game."

In 2007, the game was a financial success for the city, generating about $1.8 million in combined sales and local taxes, said Hannah Byron, assistant secretary for the Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts in the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

"This is one of the most prestigious sporting events that a city can host. It really shows that the state can host these kinds of visible and prestigious sporting venues, so we can leverage other sporting events to our city and state," Byron said.

Eight years ago, in the last contract negotiation, Gladchuk said 15 cities showed interest in getting the game. Requests for proposals have been created for bidding on games after 2009, and already there is a lot of interest.

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