Arena Football Draws Up Online Game Plan

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Arena Football Properties has redesigned its Web site and plans to debut an online storefront later this month to increase its Web marketing and sales efforts.


Entering its 15th season, Arena Football, New York, also plans e-mail marketing to build its online database and target potential customers more effectively. The e-mail campaign will begin when the storefront debuts. The league's season opens April 13.


Arena Football expects to draw a buzz around its 15th anniversary by converging its promotional platforms, such as the Web site, its television broadcasts and games at the arenas.


"One of our marketing objectives is to get eyeballs on screens, plural -- both television screens and computer screens," said David Haney, senior vice president of marketing at Arena Football. "If you're in the arena, you'll get information of our broadcasts and the Web. We're hoping it will have a triangular effect and that those three will work in harmony to basically layer important brand impressions and activate sales."


To drive online initiatives, Arena Football partnered with eSports Partners, Dallas. The league also formed an agreement with the National Football League in which each league placed links to its site on the other league's site. The NFL has an option to buy 49 percent of the Arena Football League.


Meanwhile, the e-mail campaign begins this month with an initial effort to build the online database, said eSports CEO Michael McKay.


"A robust database lets us know who the fans are, what their interests are, when they want to be communicated to and what they want to be communicated," McKay said. "With that type of information, we can use the e-mails as a marketing engine that will tailor messages to fans and give them what they want, when they want it -- all specific to merchandise and content on the [Arena Football League] site."


Though the league would not reveal how many names it has in its online database, McKay said it wants to increase the database size through several initiatives, including online promotions and collecting data during the checkout process. The e-mails, which will be in HTML or text format, depending on the user's PC capabilities, will have a "send to a friend" link embedded within, McKay said.


E-mails also will feature links to unique URLs on the e-commerce storefront, McKay said. Further, the league will post merchandise promotions on its home page, www.arenafootball.com, and in arenas, he said.


Merchandise will be sold online, but tickets will not. Instead, the league will provide telephone numbers through which users can buy tickets as well as links to individual teams' Web sites, where more detailed ticket information will be available.


McKay said eSports was in talks with three undisclosed Arena Football franchises to design their storefronts.


The league also plans to introduce an offline catalog later this season. McKay said he expects the catalog to give customers another avenue to shop and gives the league another platform to drive Web traffic and sell merchandise. The catalog will be distributed to fans as they enter arenas and inserted in product orders form online buyers.


"We're taking the offline approach into this site and looking for things that work in the non-sports world," McKay said. "What we're going to do is put those catalogs in the homes of [Arena Football] fans, and it will be a steppingstone from the living room to the Internet."


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