SBJ/Aug. 4-10, 2014/Franchises

Seahawks selling preseason first-quarter ads to single sponsor

In a move taken directly from “The Late Show with David Letterman,” the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are selling their TV ad inventory in the first quarter of each preseason game to one specific sponsor.

The Washington State Lottery bought the exclusive position for this week’s Super Bowl rematch against the Denver Broncos, and Boeing bought the position for the Sea-hawks’ Aug. 22 preseason game against the Chicago Bears.

“We are in deep discussions with other prospects to fill the other two slots,” Sea-hawks President Peter McLoughlin said. “We’re optimistic about that.”

The strategy stems from McLoughlin’s two-decade stint at Anheuser-Busch, where the company bought an exclusive sponsorship to one of Letterman’s shows. McLoughlin considered it a success and thought he could replicate the effort during the first quarter of the Seahawks’ four preseason games.

The Seahawks have valued the exclusive inventory in the low to mid-six figures. The team will make more from selling the first quarter exclusively than if it were to sell the ad spots traditionally.

“I don’t want to overdo the revenue aspect because there’s certainly a revenue stream here,” McLoughlin said. “But the four preseason games is not a significant part of our overall revenue.”

The first-quarter ad inventory will feature five, 75-second breaks that could include everything from prerecorded messages to interviews with the sponsor’s executives. The rest of the telecast will have its normal mix of ads.

The Seahawks control the game rights and most of its ad inventory. The team pays for the game production and hires the announcers, Curt Menefee and Brock Huard.

The team’s local broadcast partner, the Tribune-owned Fox affiliate KCPQ, controls some of the commercial inventory, and the Seahawks were able to convince them to move their first-quarter spots to later in the game.

“We control the majority of the inventory, which gives us the flexibility,” McLoughlin said. “We were able to reallocate the commercial inventory into the second through the fourth quarters to free up the first quarter to create this new opportunity.”

McLoughlin recalled that A-B’s Letterman sponsorship mainly consisted of product placements and gave the talk show host more airtime to tell jokes and conduct interviews.

“It was more of a service to the viewer,” he said. “We’re going to do something similar. We’re going to stick more to the football message, give more opportunity for our talent to talk about the players, the coaches, the strategy, what’s going on in the game. There will be less commercial time.”

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