SBJ/April 30-May 6, 2012/Facilities

Populous working to grow Pepsi Max brand in a ‘cornfield’

Don Muret
Sports architect Populous has a principal role for developing the inaugural Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game May 12 in Columbus.

The promotion is tied to an advertising campaign PepsiCo rolled out last summer in conjunction with the 2011 MLB All-Star Game. Tim Wisecup, a 41-year-old chemist from suburban Columbus, won a sweepstakes to play a six-inning baseball game with 10 of his friends against a team of 11 former major leaguers, nine of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

Populous is responsible for activating the Pepsi Max brand for the event and game operations at Huntington Park, in tandem with the Columbus Clippers, the stadium’s Class AAA tenant. For Populous, whose event design and planning division traditionally works with leagues to stage their biggest events, including the Super Bowl and the Winter Classic, working exclusively for a brand is something a bit different, said Kevin O’Grady, a senior associate in the firm’s Denver office.

A rendering shows the theme for the outfield wall at the Field of Dreams game in Columbus.
Photo by: POPULOUS
“It is entertainment, first and foremost,” O’Grady said. “The competition is secondary.”

In Columbus, the Pepsi Max and MLB logos will be displayed on the field, outfield walls and the players’ uniforms. The graphical presentation will carry a heavy Iowa corn theme revolving around “Field of Dreams,” the 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones. Several thousand fake cornstalks will be installed in the outfield, and players from both teams will walk through them as they are introduced. Populous’ original thought was to grow real corn in a greenhouse, O’Grady said, but it would have taken too long to get it to full maturity.

Making up the team of ex-major leaguers, selected by a fan vote during last year’s sweepstakes, are Randy Johnson, Johnny Bench, Frank Thomas, Rod Carew, Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Eckersley and Edgar Martinez.

The former pros will sign autographs for the fans, and if they want to take a breather, a group of stand-ins will be available to take their places in the game, O’Grady said.

Huntington Park has about 10,000 seats. About 80 percent are being distributed free at Kroger supermarkets in Greater Columbus for fans who buy Pepsi Max products, said Ken Schnacke, the Clippers’ general manager.

The remaining tickets cost $10 on Ticketmaster, the team’s official ticketing vendor. As of last week, about 500 tickets had been sold, Schnacke said.

The game will be packaged into a one-hour broadcast shown one week to 10 days later on three regional sports networks. MLB Productions will be on-site getting footage for a special it is producing.

Pepsi Max launched this year’s contest last Tuesday and has committed to holding a second Field of Dreams game next year in the hometown of the 2012 sweepstakes winner, O’Grady said.

The original intent was to build a temporary facility, a “true” Field of Dreams that comes in and goes away with the game, and that option is on the table for next year, depending on the contest winner’s hometown, he said.

COWBOY UP: Legends Sales & Marketing has signed a three-year deal with Southern Methodist University to sell season tickets for football and men’s and women’s basketball.

The deal is a revenue share, said Tim Leonard, SMU’s senior associate athletic director for external affairs.

The move to outsource ticketing was twofold, said Athletic Director Steve Orsini. The athletic department faced a difficult challenge to expand its ticket sales staff in the midst of the school’s hiring freeze, he said.

In addition, a university task force studying how to increase attendance in football and basketball thought it made sense to hire an expert as SMU prepares to move from Conference USA to the Big East Conference in 2013.

Last season, average football attendance was about 21,000 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, a building with 32,000 seats. Men’s basketball drew about 2,000 fans a game at 8,988-seat Moody Coliseum, though that number figures to increase after the school’s announcement last week that Larry Brown will coach the team.

Legends is co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys. Through its ties with the NFL team, the firm has a database of 300,000 names it can tap for selling tickets to Mustangs events in a market with 6 million residents, Leonard said.

Chris Terwoord, formerly with the New Jersey Devils, has been hired as Legends’ general manager of sales at SMU, where he will direct a six-person staff working out of SMU’s stadium. His group will be a mix of former Cowboys employees and new hires.

“This will be the start of a career path for some of them,” Leonard said. “If they kill it here, they can move over to Cowboys Stadium.”

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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