Sunday, October 22, 2000

What's the Buzz?

Ads hitched to Bengal wins don't fly

        To some of Greater Cincinnati's biggest advertisers, buying signs in Paul Brown Stadium is throwing good money after bad.

        At least three of the Tristate's biggest companies slashed advertising plans for signs in the $453 million stadium this year after the Bengals refused to base the contract on the number of wins in a season.

        Such an arrangement would have been unprecedented, according to U.S. sports marketing observers.

        “We were willing to give significant advertising dollars,” said the chief executive officer at one local company, who said the Bengals met the offer with “total revulsion. But we really can't do that given the win-loss record.”

        Cinergy Corp. spokesman Steve Brash acknowledged that the utility had “preliminary discussions” about a performance clause in its contract for a sign at Paul Brown Stadium. Delta Air Lines also turned down a deal, sources said.

        While the Bengals proposed a $600,000 price for a package deal including large signs, premium seats and broadcasting time, several companies proposed paying the entire amount only if the Bengals won eight of their 16 games this year. If the team won four games, the price would have been cut in half.

        The Bengals quickly rejected that offer, the sources said, and the companies settled for cheaper contracts.

        The Bengals would not provide details, but said they have had plenty of interest from local companies and have significantly increased their sponsorship revenue over the team's years at Cinergy Field.

        “We've had some terrific companies step forward to be partners,” team spokesman Jeff Berding said. The companies that didn't buy signs “are going to regret their decision,” he said.

        As a result of their anemic record over the last decade — including an 0-6 start this season — the Bengals have sold out only one home game in the new Paul Brown Stadium — a new low for an NFL franchise.

        Companies featured on signs in Paul Brown Stadium include Provident Bank, Cinergy, Cincinnati Bell Inc., Healthsouth and Greater Cincinnati Chevrolet dealers. Another local company, Gold Star Chili Inc., is featured in a banner advertisement on the team's Internet site.

        Industry experts both here and across the country said some contracts include clauses on television ratings or attendance, but are never based on on-field performance.


— Cliff Peale

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