NEWSPAPER WEBSITE THE KEY TO NEW TIMES UNION
CENTER TICKETING
Author: Dave Brooks
Date: January 03,2007

When two venues share the same name, it’s inevitable people
might get confused, especially when trying to look up the facility
on the Internet.Visitors of the recently renamed Times Union Center
in Albany, N.Y. — formerly the Pepsi Center —
wouldn’t have much luck if they typed in timesunioncenter.com
into their web browser. Instead, they would be directed to the
website for the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in
Jacksonville, Fla.That creates a dilemma for Albany officials and
executives at SMG, which hold management contracts for both
facilities. To alleviate confusion, the Albany-facility has opted
to make its primary web portal link through the building’s
new title sponsor, the Times Union newspaper.“Because the
other building is a theatrical facility, our naming rights partner
still felt the name should be acceptable and I can’t disagree
with that,” said longtime General Manager Bob Belber.
“We spoke with agents who are routing big arena tours and
almost all said they don’t think it will be a problem having
a similar named facility.”The Albany facility is undertaking
a major marketing campaign to drive traffic through the newspaper
site www.timesunion.com, whose front page includes a well-placed
click through advertisement for the facility’s home page,
timesunioncenter-albany.com as well as a Tickets.com website for
purchasing capabilities. With so much web traffic already going to
the newspaper site, as well as the arena site, both the facility
and the newspaper feel the new relationship will drive up traffic
for both businesses.In May, the Times Union newspaper agreed to a
10-year, $350,000 per year naming rights contract with the facility
that includes advertising incentives for promoters and in-arena
signage and positioning. The newspaper also agreed to cover
$300,000 in name change expenses, replacing everything from
exterior building signage to highway indicators announcing the new
Times Union Center. Despite the volatile times the newspaper
industry is facing, publisher Mark Aldam said the deal made
economic sense because of the advertising incentives involved.
“The economics are very positive for us,” he said.
“There’s a responsibility from the venue’s
standpoint to invest in advertising with the newspaper.”That
deal includes a promise on the part of the venue to purchase a
full-page advertisement each week in the newspaper’s
entertainment tabloid called Preview. The ad will appear on the
inside cover of the section and cost $1,000 per ad — a
considerable deal Belber explained since the same space usually
runs $5,000 in the 144,000-circulation newspaper. The ad will also
include information about how to purchase tickets online through
the Times Union Center’s ticketing partner, Tickets.com, as
well as listings of upcoming shows at the venue.Belber said the
arena has a deal worked out with the paper to include additional
advertising incentives to promoters that advertise Times-Union
shows using the newspaper, or the newspaper’s website. The
newspaper will match 50 cents on every dollar spent on Times Union
Center advertising, including the page-three advertisement in the
entertainment section. The promoters must all also provide 16-event
tickets to the newspaper to be used for promotional purposes.Belber
said his arena is contractually obligated to fill the page-three
space, but shouldn’t have any problems. The Albany arena
hosts 165 events per year, including 25 concerts and a number of
Feld-produced family shows like Disney on Ice. The arena also has
three sports tenants — the Albany River Rats of the American
Hockey League, the Albany Conquest of the arenafootball2 league and
NCAA Division One Sienna College’s men’s basketball
team, which Belber estimates moves about 7,000 tickets per game.
All three teams have expressed interest in using the advertising
space.“We’re estimating $5 million in marketing
benefits over the 10-year period,” Belber said.For the
newspaper, there’s hope that the name deal will continue to
boost interest in the newspaper through traditional naming rights
benefits like broadcast mentions and increased signage, along with
renewed readership at the website. The paper has operated a web
site for over 10 years, but recently underwent a major revamp to
incorporate the Times Union Center onto its front page. Aldam said
he hopes the deal drives up traffic for his newspaper website and
ultimately leads to more readers for the newspaper and the online
news.“In order to get online tickets,” which represent
65 percent of ticket transactions at the Times Union Center,
“you have to log onto our website and that takes the
relationship to a whole new level.” Aldam said. “We
expect a lot of the attendees not to be regular timesunion.com
visitors, but perhaps the experience of connecting through the
website more often will change that. Maybe along the way, the
visitors will find some value in the information that we bring them
and some will become regular readers.” — Dave
BrooksInterviewed for this story: Bob Belber, (518) 487-2008; Mark
Aldam, (518) 454-5403