The Selling of ASU Football

No matter what happens on the field, ASU athletics hits pay dirt every game--with a nonstop stream of advertisements

"There is no signage," says Notre Dame sports information director Mike Enright. "Everything pertains to the game."

Notre Dame, which has the luxury of a lucrative television contract with NBC, has no audio advertising and no video screen.

Enright doesn't expect Notre Dame will ever become more aggressive at marketing its football games.

"I don't think there will ever come the day where you will see that at Notre Dame," he says.

Other major conferences also take a more moderate approach to in-game ads.
John Walters, a college-football writer for Sports Illustrated, says the Pac-10 schools are "much more aggressive" in marketing compared with other major conferences.

Walters says the atmosphere for football at schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Louisiana State in the Southeast Conference, and Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan in the Big 10, is relatively unpolluted by advertising.

"Those places are just amazing," he says.
Arizona State's marketing, by contrast, is so aggressive, it is "selling its own program short," going so far as to require fans to purchase season tickets just to get a seat for the Notre Dame game.

The approach could create ill will, says Walters, who grew up in Tempe and attended ASU games in the late 1970s.

"I [would] feel cheated as an ASU alum or fan, thinking they are going to blackmail me for the Notre Dame game," he says.

Walters says too much marketing outside and inside the stadium threatens to ruin the game for the fans--particularly the most devoted backers who support the team in good years and bad.

"Fans want a pure experience," he says.

After nearly 200 minutes of steady advertising inside Sun Devil Stadium, the ASU marketeers finally fall silent. Apparently, all the ads have run--and there are still two minutes of football to be played.

ASU grabs a 38-35 lead on a fourth-down touchdown pass from Ryan Kealy to Tariq McDonald. ASU kicks off to the Huskies.

Washington faces a third down and three from the ASU 49. The Huskies call time-out.

As the ASU band launches into "We Will Rock You," the crowd begins clapping and starts building into a crescendo fortissimo.

The crowd roars as Washington quarterback Brock Huard settles behind center, and becomes deafening when Huard fumbles the ball--it's recovered by the Huskies.

The clock is running. Washington faces a fourth and 17 with 35 seconds to play from the Huskies' own 37. Fans turn it up another notch, stomping on seats, screaming to rattle Huard. It's pure frenzy. The Sun Devils are one play from victory.

This time, Huard is unfazed. He calmly lofts a spiral that is gathered in near midfield. Nearly 72,000 fans emit a sound of shocked disbelief as Reggie Davis goes 63 yards for a touchdown, putting the Huskies up 42-38 with 28 seconds to play.

"I don't believe it," a woman screams.
The Sun Devils have one more chance. The band fires up the ASU fight song with six seconds to play before Kealy's desperation pass falls incomplete.

It's a crushing defeat. Many fans are too stunned to move. They slump quietly in their seats, staring across the stadium. Others are angry. Most silently shuffle down the stadium aisles and slip dejectedly into Tempe's streets. The ASU band plays the fight song. Lightning darts across the sky.

And Jeff Munn launches into another plug:
"Fans, it's now time for the Met-Rx play of the game. Please direct your attention to the video board for today's great play."

There's no need to watch.

Contact John Dougherty at his online address: jdougherty@newtimes.com

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