VenuesNow: Posted by  | Sep 21, 2021 | 

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Team benches are the newest piece of sponsorship inventory at college football stadiums as Power Five schools and their media rights holders search for creative ways to generate revenue at those facilities. ANC, which is part of Learfield, brokered a three-year deal with Stanley Black & Decker to place the DeWalt tool brand on team benches produced by Dragon Seats, a Learfield partner supplying the structures for 25 schools.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Participants span the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Mountain West. John Obropta, ANC’s vice president of advertising sales, was principally involved in the agreement. Obropta said expectations are moderate for brand exposure on television, considering the benches are typically hidden by players sitting on them and standing in front of them along the sidelines. The Ohio State-Minnesota game Sept. 2 at Huntington Bank Stadium marked the launch of the DeWalt program, followed by about a half-dozen games on the first full Saturday of the college football season.

Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group, a firm that tracks media exposure for brands across sports and entertainment, followed DeWalt coverage for a few games over the Labor Day weekend, including the Sept. 3 Michigan State-Northwestern game. Smallwood estimated that the projected value for a school participating in the ANC/DeWalt program runs more than $185,000 over the course of the season, depending on the number of home games, which can range from five to seven for the respective institutions. “I looked at games that didn’t have it and games that did have it,” he said. “Where it comes into play is toward the end of the game, if the quarterback is sitting on the bench and a coach is talking to him.”

Another instance occurred when the camera focused on the head coach and players behind him were dispersed in a manner in which the DeWalt brand was visible to the viewer, Smallwood said. During the early stages of the season, the small posts sticking up from the benches that carry the DeWalt brand provide a bonus for the schools, he said. They’re helmet warmers and mostly used in the cold weather months. For now they’re uncovered, exposing the sponsor’s logo. Smallwood said that without knowing the parameters of the ANC/DeWalt deal, key variables to determine value extend to which network is broadcasting the game and whether DeWalt is reaching a national audience on a Saturday night on ABC compared with the Big Ten Network.

“When I did the projection, I based it on a blend of factors,” he said. For Stanley Black & Decker and DeWalt, “it’s an ownable concept, which is the thing they love,” Obropta said. Obropta has been with ANC for 20 years. In 2015, Learfield acquired a controlling interest in ANC, which is well known for producing customized software systems for videoboards at big league and college venues. or ANC, television-visible signage has been a specialty, and that’s where its relationship with Stanley Black & Decker started, Obropta said. The company’s brands have been displayed on digital signs behind home plate at Major League Baseball stadiums. Over the past five years, Stanley Black & Decker has grown tremendously, acquiring Craftsman from Sears in 2017.

In August, it bought the remaining 80% of MTD Holdings, a private manufacturer of outdoor power equipment tied to the Cub Cadet and Troy-Bilt brands. “The genesis of our relationship is delivering TV-visible signage for whatever brand they’re trying to pump up,” Obropta said. “The DeWalt brand sits squarely at the forefront with retailers. Everybody’s doing pretty well with Lowe’s and Home Depot selling their products.”

To keep the DeWalt line top of mind among college football fans, Stanley Black & Decker came to ANC and Obropta searching for a bigger advertising platform. The firm did not previously have a presence in college football. Obropta circled back with Learfield, which through its merger with IMG College in 2018, holds the multimedia rights to dozens of Power Five institutions. Learfield on its own had put together a program for college football with Dragon Seats, “the Cadillac of player benches” with ventilation systems to keep players cool when it’s hot and warm them when it’s cold, Obropta said. At the time, Learfield was seeking a bench sponsor for activation, he said. DeWalt filled that role. Stanley Black & Decker initially asked ANC to come up with inventory to match the success of the Allstate field goal nets and the State Farm basket stanchion pads in college basketball and the NBA, a deal that Obropta worked on several years ago. The Allstate nets were already off limits. ANC had to find a different piece of inventory that was standard at college football stadiums across the country. The team benches stood out as a uniform feature at all those venues.

“They loved it and it was an overwhelming journey of tweaking the list to come up with 25 schools that were going to comply with the DeWalt branding,” Obropta said. “We kept it in the ballpark in terms of potential budget, the schools and conferences … to get the home and away matchups that we wanted.” Schools were also sticklers for displaying their team logos. In that respect, all benches have a consistent look with the exception of school colors and mascot marks. Under terms of the deal, the minimum is four benches a school, but many are requesting twice that number, which gives DeWalt “more real estate” on the sidelines, Obropta said.

Some schools have talked about bringing the benches for their road games, he said. In addition to the benches, Stanley Black & Decker receives game day hospitality with a pregame tailgate party at all 25 schools to entertain employees and their top customers among the dealers selling their products. The sponsor also gets game tickets in a suite or other premium space inside the stadium, Obropta said. LED ribbon board displays and a coordinated social media campaign are also part of the agreement. ANC holds the right to expand the DeWalt program to more schools.

“They’re going to own Saturday with the live game broadcasts and highlights,” he said. “The more teams involved, the better it’s going to be and the more robust it will look.” As the branded bench program evolves, the NFL could potentially provide ANC with a future opportunity. “TV-visible signs locally are not approved in the NFL,” Obropta said. “We’ve been trying to get field-level LED (signs) into the NFL for five years now. When the NFL decides to do that, it will have to go through them. It’s something that could happen.”