- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

After an $800 million price tag to buy the Washington Redskins and a player payroll ballooning to nearly $100 million in 2000, owner Dan Snyder found a $500 problem in his budget earlier this year.
The issue at hand: the corporate banners that hang behind players and coaches during news conferences. The vinyl banners are seemingly omnipresent on ESPN's "SportsCenter" and other highlight shows and represent an important and emerging source of revenue for nearly every NFL team.
But the Redskins' potential profits were being muted every time a new banner was needed. And that was often; the team goes through nearly two dozen banners each season costing about $500 each.
Snyder's solution is "Digital VideoDrop," a team-created video system that animates the corporate logos on 63-inch, high-definition TV sets and switches them on the fly via computer software.
The Redskins first used Digital VideoDrop for a February news conference announcing their switch to the 1960s-era uniforms for home games this season. But during coach Steve Spurrier's recent news conferences at Redskin Park to review the team's draft, the system received its first full run.
Budweiser logos quickly switched to those for Bud Light and back again. Other key Redskins sponsors, such as FedEx and Siemens, received exposure, as did redskins.com, the team's Web site, and the club's upcoming 70th anniversary. Sometimes switches would occur as often as 30 seconds apart, at times startling even Snyder, and other times logos would remain on the screens for entire events.
The technology is not unlike the digital video boards seen in many new NBA and NHL arenas but relies on high-definition TV instead of light-emitting diodes (LED). Digital VideoDrop systems also will be set up at FedEx Field, at all Redskins away games and possibly at training camp in Carlisle, Pa.
Team officials say the Digital VideoDrop is really not revolutionary and is essentially a few computers hooked up to off-the-shelf TVs. And Snyder's fanatical pursuit of economic might and efficiency is also well known to area fans. But Pro Football Inc., the corporate entity for the Redskins, has a patent pending for Digital VideoDrop. The rest of the league and additional corporate sponsors are expected to come calling for a piece of the action.
"The whole thing is really simple. The banners were becoming a bit cumbersome to keep redoing. Dan pointed to a computer screen and said, 'Why can't we do that?' And that set the whole thing in motion," team vice president Karl Swanson said. "We bought the [TV] sets, took the one-time capital expense, and now we'll be set. Sponsors can change things in real time. We can change things in real time. We wish we had done this sooner."
FedEx, which obviously holds a close relationship with the team as a result of the $205 million stadium naming rights deal, is now conferring with team officials to devise more ways to take advantage of Digital VideoDrop.
"This [system] is very impressive and cutting edge," FedEx spokesman Steve Barber said.
The league, which carefully monitors and regulates corporate exposure during games to protect key partners like Reebok and Motorola, was not involved in the creation of Digital VideoDrop. Teams are free to implement their own marketing deals for off-field affairs like news conferences.
"This was a team decision," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "But this does look like the next step in signage, an evolution."
Technical hiccups from the system included unwanted glare and noise transmitted onto still photographers and TV cameramen, but such issues largely have been fixed.
The typical NFL team reaps about $500,000 annually from static corporate banners. The Redskins, however, will gain much more when the Digital VideoDrop signage is folded into much larger and more lucrative contracts with Anheuser-Busch, FedEx and others. The team grosses nearly $30 millon a year from its corporate sponsorship a number set to increase even more.
"Our financial projections from this aren't complete. But we do know already that we've found a lot more efficient way of doing this," Swanson said.

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