SBJ/October 22-28, 2012/Events and Attractions

MELT to help Senior Bowl with sponsor sales

The Senior Bowl has retained Atlanta-based MELT as its sales and marketing agency to find a title sponsor for the game.

Under Armour was the title sponsor from 2007 to 2010, while Merrill Lynch Wealth Management was a presenting sponsor last year.

But as new executive director Phil Savage, the former Cleveland Browns general manager, takes over the Senior Bowl’s operations, he’s seeking several tiers of sponsorship that will drive the game’s association with the NFL draft. The title sponsorship is the most prominent and the most expensive, at mid-to-high six figures, but Savage said he’ll work with MELT to uncover more assets that will help grow sponsorship dollars into the Mobile, Ala.-based all-star game that’s been around since 1950.

“The Senior Bowl is the last untapped nugget on the NFL draft timeline,” said Savage, a Mobile native who returned home in May to run the game. “If we can use the game week as an anchor and build out events from there that align with the draft process, we can become more of a go-to place for people following the draft.”

The game’s sponsorships and its TV contract with the NFL Network currently provide close to $1.5 million in annual revenue. As a nonprofit entity owned by the Mobile Arts and Sports Association, the Senior Bowl has donated $8 million to charities, such as the Special Olympics, area schools and hospitals.

“When you think about the Senior Bowl, the NFL combine and the draft, this game is the first step in the trifecta,” said Vince Thompson, MELT’s CEO and president, and an Alabama native who grew up going to the Senior Bowl. Because the players at the Senior Bowl represent “the largest collection of future millionaires you could assemble anywhere,” Thompson said, financial services/wealth management, auto and life insurance would be categories to target.

Savage, who has extensive NFL player personnel experience with the Browns, Eagles and Ravens, still provides radio color commentary on Alabama games. Part of his strategy is to create events and Web content that will provide not only sponsorship opportunities, but also brand extensions that keep the Senior Bowl relevant in months other than January, when the game is annually played.

He likes the idea of a selection show in December to showcase the selection process for the players who are invited to the Senior Bowl. He’s also toyed with the idea of inviting the next tier of players who don’t go to New York for the draft to Mobile for a draft party and additional TV exposure.

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