Aflac goes in the tent for sponsor opportunity
Expect to see images of Aflac’s cash-wielding duck on the sidelines of SEC college football games this fall.
Aflac is working with the Southeastern Conference and its schools to sponsor the pop-up medical tents that are now common on the sidelines, sources say. The tents represent some of the most visible signage within a football stadium for fans and the TV audience because of their size and placement right behind the players.
Pop-up medical tents can range from 5-by-12 feet to 7-by-14 feet.
They made their debut during the 2015 college season when the University of Alabama used one to provide privacy for injured players. The tent enables Alabama’s head athletic trainer, Jeff Allen, to examine an injured player on the sideline as opposed to going to the locker room.
In the three seasons since then, most schools have introduced pop-up medical tents on their sidelines. The tents also have made their way into the NFL as well as high school football.
Until now, the medical tents have not been used as a marketing tool. The tents typically are adorned with school logos or the university’s medical provider. For example, Alabama’s sideline tent features St. Vincent’s Health System and Andrews Sports Medicine over a “Built by Bama” logo.
Aflac and its agency, Atlanta-based Melt, took the idea of sponsoring the tent to the SEC earlier this year because of the visibility and how well the concept aligns with its core business. Aflac’s supplemental insurance pays cash to clients who get hurt and are unable to work.
Aflac already has secured the SEC sponsorship through the conference’s rights holder, ESPN. That deal provides Aflac with SEC marks, marketing rights at championship events and a presence on “SEC Nation,” the SEC Network’s game-day show. The iconic white duck, which has been around almost 20 years, also is expected to be integrated into Paul Finebaum’s TV and radio show on SEC Network.
To get the sideline rights for the medical tents, Aflac and Melt are going school to school throughout the SEC to strike deals with their rights holders.
Learfield IMG College owns the rights to 11 of the 14 schools, while JMI Sports has Kentucky, Outfront Media Sports has LSU and Fox Sports has Auburn. JMI and Learfield IMG College share Georgia.
Tracy White, who oversees sales as the senior vice president in the South region, is running point for Learfield IMG College. Melt’s chairman, Vince Thompson, is taking the lead in Aflac’s talks.
When it all comes together — conference rights, school rights, advertising spend, activation — Aflac’s spend will be in the high seven figures to low eight figures annually, industry experts say.
Aflac for several years has been a heavy spender across college football. In 2018, Aflac spent $80.7 million, of which $16.64 million was in sports, according to an SBJ analysis of iSpot.tv data. Nearly two-thirds of that sports spend was on college football, which ranks the insurance company 43rd among college football ad spenders for the year.