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Published March 23, 2009
Dave Bialek recalls the moment in the summer of 2006 when he came up with the idea of sticking ads on the stanchions behind basketball goals, his claim to fame in sports marketing. It was 3 in the morning and Bialek was tending to his infant daughter, Olivia. Exhausted, but still semi-alert, Bialek sat down in the dark to watch a basketball game on ESPN Classic. He noticed something seemed to be missing on the screen.
“I kept seeing the same piece of real estate over and over again and realized there was an opportunity to [sell] that unused inventory,” said Bialek, president of ANC Sports Marketing.
Despite the sophistication of sports marketing and in-stadium signage, nobody had come up with the idea of placing advertising on the basket supports. Bialek, still new at ANC Sports Marketing, bounced his wee-hours brainstorm off his colleagues, and after getting the thumbs-up, he traveled to Bloomington, Ill., home of State Farm Insurance, a longtime sponsor of college basketball.
State Farm was not an ANC client at the time, but Bialek knew Ed Gold, the firm’s advertising director. State Farm officials “immediately understood the importance” of putting their brand on such a prime position, Bialek said.
The result: ANC Sports brokered deals with State Farm in 2007 to put its bright red signs on basket stanchions at several colleges, a roster that has since expanded to 70 schools.
“Dave literally came up with the idea, sold the rights to it and made it happen,” Gold said. “It’s a great way for us to display our brand ... because it’s not a regular rolling sign. It can be seen 100 percent on both sides of the basket.”
NBA teams soon realized the revenue opportunity, and in late 2007, 15 clubs signed deals with State Farm to put its ads on basket stanchions in big league arenas. Those deals helped Bialek generate $50 million in revenue for ANC in his first 27 months on the job.
His next big idea is the advent of the three-dimensional ad, using new technology to “reshape” an existing floor logo so that it appears to pop up from the playing surface. ANC Sports and State Farm have tested the concept during college games.