Specialized collateral

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From the Under Armour ads that have cropped up among the ivy at Wrigley Field to the Reebok and Canon logos NFL photographers are now required to wear, it seems that team owners are branding nearly every surface in a spectator's field of vision.

Some teams are discovering that jazzing up their standard collateral, such as tickets or programs, can enrich fans' experience while enhancing the bottom line. Take, for example, the program the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers initiated with season ticket holders this past season.

"This season we went to season ticket holders and asked them to submit photos of themselves all æFlyer-ed up,'" says Shawn Tilger, SVP of business operations. "[We received] pictures of people who got married in Flyer jerseys, people who were skydiving or on vacation, one guy in the military flying a jet - it was really cool. And, we put those pictures on tickets."

So when season ticket holders got their tickets this year, many of them were receiving instant keepsakes. "I've heard of fans framing them or putting them into montages," Tilger adds.

Getting fans to take home collateral, perhaps even saving it, was what motivated the International Fight League to experiment with the size of its programs for its inaugural season this year.

"We knew we wanted to make the program as portable as possible," says Joe Favorito, IFL's SVP of communications.

Some leagues in recent years have moved beyond the traditional magazine- size program to offer more manageable, Playbill-sized ones. But the IFL went one step further, printing four-inch by six-inch programs and distributing them at a test match last year.

"We did an exit poll and got 3,000-4,000 responses. People overwhelmingly said it was the best-sized program they'd ever received," Favorito says. The IFL discovered that the smaller programs were more likely to be folded up and taken home in a fan's back pocket, and that they fit perfectly into the lip of the arena seat. This made it less likely that fans were forced to place them on the floor where they were likely to get dirty and eventually discarded. The league adopted the programs as their standard, and they were provided at all 11 events this year.

For the second year, card manufacturer Upper Deck is running the Backstage Pass program. In a bid to bring younger fans closer to the game and generate more interest in card collecting, Upper Deck has begun printing access codes on the back of its NHL rookie cards. When collectors under the age of 17 input these codes into the Upper Deck Web site, they earn points to win signed memorabilia or video games. The grand prize is a chance for two young fans to be "stick boy" (or girl) at the 2008 NHL All-Star Event. Winners sit on the bench with the players during the game, making sure everyone has a stick before stepping onto the ice or a towel upon returning from a shift.

"It was really important for us to reach out to kids," said Chris Hunt, marketing manager with Upper Deck. "We have a large collector audience, and we want to make sure we continue to grow that audience, that collecting is still a primary hobby for kids today."

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