Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

The Mic Flag: The Next Advertising Space In Sports


Over the years, teams -– in search of more and more revenue -- have continued to push the boundaries of what they’re willing to sell.

The outfield wall sign evolved into the rotating sign behind home plate and then came virtual signage. Last year, the WNBA allowed its teams to sell its jerseys to a corporate sponsor and the NFL followed with practice jersey rights. Teams have even sold sounds -– electronics store P.C. Richards has long had its jingle played after every Jets first down and, last year, the Cubs sold the jingle rights to Luna Carpets for every Cubs double.

And just when it seems like everything has been sold, another space has been realized — the press conference microphone flag.

Sure the banner behind the speaking coach and players have been sold to corporate America, but never the space on the mic flag.

Pete Carroll
Getty Images

Until now.

As part of its deal with Bing, Microsoft’s search engine not only got practice jersey rights to the Seahawks, it also got the mic flag for the press conferences.

So when new head coach Pete Carroll announced the new draft picks this week, the mic he was speaking at had the Bing logo on it.

“We invested a lot of money over the weekend,” said Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke. “We rely on partnerships with companies like Bing to make our business work. The mic flag seemed to be a rational thing to offer as part of our bigger relationship with the Bing brand.

The partnership with the brand might be even more of a natural because the team is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

“We’re interested in building this brand in unique, unconventional ways and the mic flag is an example of that,” said Lisa Gurry, director of marketing and public relations for Bing. “By putting our brand on the mic flag, we’re putting our brand front and center of the most important dialogue that takes place.”

Bing recently purchased the rights to have its logo put on the jerseys of the Seattle Storm, the WNBA team. Gurry said that she expects that the mic flag used for the press conferences for the team will also have the Bing logo on it.

So will this become a future space that teams will sell?

Sports marketer Ben Sturner thinks so.

“Companies, with the banners in the background, have already identified that having their brand at the press conference has value,” said Sturner, CEO and founder of Leverage Agency, a sports sponsorship firm in New York City. “This is just the next generation buy for those companies.”

Sturner said that, if it were appropriate, he might advise one his client’s to buy all the mic flags for many teams, if those teams were willing to sell them on a one-off basis. If there is a concern, Sturner said that selling the mic flag might diminish the value of the sponsor whose logo is on the screen behind the coach or player.

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