Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2014

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ADVERTISING:

For Las Vegas, NFL marketing is a game of inches

Trial run from 2009 postseason, which allowed but limited ads, extended into this season

ADVERTISING REQUIREMENTS

NFL approval All such ads must be approved in advance by the NFL. Advertising only Only general advertising will be permitted. Sponsorships, including, but not limited to, program segment sponsorships and other types of branded programming enhancements are prohibited. (For example, VEGAS.com ads in commercial breaks will be acceptable, but a pregame sponsorship or sponsored feature in NFL programming will not be permitted.) Tourism destinations only Only tourism destinations (e.g., Nevada, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe) are permitted. The prohibition of ads for hotels, casinos and other institutions that house gambling will remain in place regardless of whether or not such ads explicitly reference gambling. Content Ads may not contain any gambling references — audio or visual — or any other gambling imagery. (For clarity, ads for Las Vegas tourism may not contain images of slot machines, dice, cards or a wide shot of the Strip and casinos, but may contain images of golf, swimming pools and performers.) The content of the ads (audio and/or visual) must be “family friendly.” Any suggestive ads or those showing or suggesting inappropriate activity (e.g., excessive use of alcohol, sexual adventures), or those that imply general misbehavior (e.g., “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”) will not be approved. Ancillary mentions Airline and other travel-related ads may mention Las Vegas in an ancillary manner (e.g., “Fly Southwest Airlines from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for $59”).

Sun Coverage

The National Football League has unveiled its advertising, sponsorship and promotion guidelines for 2010, and the good news for Las Vegas is that some changes will allow the city to be shown off in TV ads during the upcoming regular season.

The bad news for the city’s promoters is that showing off our hotels and casinos — or even a pair of flying dice above a craps table — and invoking our world-famous motto, “What happens here, stays here,” are still considered too racy for the NFL’s taste.

Still, the revised guidelines are an important step in displaying Las Vegas in commercial messages that appear during the games that sports books annually thrive on. But advertisers still won’t have carte blanche to put anything about Las Vegas on the air.

In the NFL’s 2009 postseason, the league had what amounted to a four-week trial period with a revised advertising policy. Those guidelines will be in place for the entire 2010 season, giving advertisers an opportunity to deliver messages on national broadcasts for the 17-week regular season.

But the city’s naughty and suggestive “What happens here, stays here” ads remain banned.

The NFL policy, in fact, specifically cites those ads as unfit for NFL viewers’ consumption.

NFL and Las Vegas marketers just can’t get on the same page when it comes to Las Vegas ads, even though the demographic fan base of the NFL runs closely to the city’s.

But in the meantime, promotional messages can now pitch such Vegas features as golf courses, swimming pools and performers.

Just as the NFL has spelled out the “What happens here, stays here” ban against the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, it also has specifically listed some VEGAS.com ads as acceptable. That means VEGAS.com can run ads promoting Las Vegas and the website during televised broadcasts of NFL regular season games.

VEGAS.com is a sister company of the Las Vegas Sun, which is owned by the Greenspun family.

For years, the NFL banned all Las Vegas ads because it didn’t want the public to make any connection between the gaming industry and football games. It wasn’t until the 2009 postseason games that some ads — but not all — were permitted.

The 2010 policy, distributed July 20, spells out the details of the ban on advertising gambling. Here’s what the 2010 policy bans:

“Gambling-related advertising, including, without limitation, advertising for any hotel, casino or other establishment that houses gambling regardless of whether the advertising references gambling, as well as any advertising that would violate the terms of the league’s television agreements or policy on gambling advertising …”

But there are some exceptions:

“General advertising from a state or municipal lottery, provided that such lottery organization does not offer any betting scheme that is based on real sporting events or performances in them; general advertising from horse- or dog-racing tracks, or from state or municipal off-track betting organizations, provided that such horse-racing, dog-racing or off-track betting establishment offers neither betting schemes based on real sporting events (other than horse or dog races) or performances in them or casino games of any kind; or general advertising for tourist destinations, including Las Vegas …”

The gaming industry isn’t the only one banned from advertising during NFL games. Bans also exist for ads on contraceptives; dietary and nutritional supplements and products (including energy drinks) that contain ingredients other than vitamins and minerals for which the FDA has established recommended daily intakes; distilled spirits and flavored malt beverages (but traditional malt beverages like beer and nonalcoholic malt beverages and wine are OK); places that feature nude or seminude performers; firearms, ammunition and weapons; and fireworks.

The policy also bans ads for illegal products or services; “male enhancement” products; movies, video games and other media that contain or promote objectionable material or subject matter; sexual materials or services; social causes and issue advocacy; tobacco products; and some pharmaceutical products.

Howard Lefkowitz, president of VEGAS.com, views the revised NFL ad rules as an opportunity, not only for his company but for the entire community.

“We have been working with the NFL the past couple of years to accomplish some resolution to this issue,” Lefkowitz said. “Our position has been that we’re a destination website. There’s no gaming on our site and people don’t come to Vegas just to gamble. They come for the world-class resorts, the world-class spas, the gourmet of gourmet restaurants and the best shows. People come here for lots of different things.”

You won’t hear Lefkowitz bash the NFL ad policies. What purpose would it serve?

“I’m happy to adhere to the rules of the NFL,” he said. “Just like a player having to play by the rules, on or off the field. I’m not interested in having a penalty flag thrown at me.”

But doesn’t it bother you that the NFL has so much say about your creativity?

“There’s always somebody who has power over your creativity,” he said. “The (Federal Communications Commission) has rules. Broadcasters have standards. This is just one more standard we need to comply with.”

It doesn’t bother Lefkowitz that VEGAS.com can’t sponsor a pregame, postgame or halftime show.

“We plan to utilize the opportunity,” he said. “Why fight with the NFL when they’re going to give you an opportunity? The ability to place ads is good for us and it’s good for the entire Las Vegas business community. What’s the point of arguing?”

A version of this story will appear in In Business Las Vegas, a sister publication of the Sun.

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