--Doug Strohm was relieved to be in Jacksonville on Monday morning to promote his electrified magnetic football game as part of the NFL Consumer Product Summit.
The summit has been held for 16 years, but this is the first time it has come to Jacksonville.
Strohm, president of Tudor Games Inc., flew in from Sammamish, Wash., outside of Seattle, to attend the event hoping to snag retail deals with some of the 32 representatives of every NFL team. His game boards are technologically updated versions of the old favorite that makes miniature player figurines customized for NFL teams move across a metal scale football field.
"We normally will go wherever it [the summit] is. But it's specifically appealing to me to be able to come Jacksonville when we've had three days of sunny weather since November in Seattle. So personally, I'm all for it," Strohm said with a laugh.
And that's exactly the tack the Jacksonville Jaguars organization took to pitch the NFL in hopes of landing the event.
Jaguars President Mark Lamping said Visit Jacksonville, the city's tourism bureau, helped coax the NFL to hold the event at EverBank Field.
Jacksonville beat out the cities of Chicago, Indianapolis and Minneapolis for this year's summit. Last year, it was in Charlotte, N.C.
"We have members of the immediate and extended NFL family coming from all over the country and visiting Jacksonville," Lamping said in his office at EverBank Field. " It's always a great thing to be able to show off a city that we love so much.
"But in addition to that, one of the great things that will come out of this is that we will have a great example of the types of large events that the reconfigured EverBank Field can successfully hold," Lamping said.
The summit is designed to get product companies and manufacturers with official NFL licenses to reach deals with retailers such as Fanatics, which is based in Jacksonville, or Wal-Mart, or other stores and online sites.
It's also an opportunity for athletic gear companies such as Under Armour and Nike, among others, to meet with equipment managers from every team to pitch their products. Deals being negotiated include uniforms, practice equipment, protective gear and staff apparel.
About 150 NFL-licensed companies had booths and displays inside the interior hallways of the stadium for the event that continues through Tuesday. It is not open to the general public.
Brian Lowe is the sales manager for For Bare Feet Original, which produces socksfor every NFL franchise. At his booth on the second floor of the stadium, he said the NFL Product Summit is invaluable to businesses like his.
"It gives us a chance to see all the teams in one location," said Lowe who is attending his seventh summit. "This gives us an opportunity to get everyone in one building and it is cohesive."
Chris Halpin, senior vice president of licensing and consumer products, said most NFL fans are completely oblivious to the product summit. But for the "inside football" business crowd, it's a huge off-season event and holding it in Jacksonville was appealing.
"The summit is the moment when all of our consumer products both on field and for fans come together," Halpin said. "We move it to a different team each year."
Halpin credited Jaguars owner Shad Khan and Lamping for heightening awareness of the ability of the Jaguars franchise to host the product summit. But he also said Jacksonville itself was alluring.
"It's a vibrant, dynamic city. It's good to have it in the South and connect to our fans down here. And it's a place a lot of our licensees and partners wanted to come. They enjoy it," Halpin said while sitting in the owner's luxury suite atop EverBank Field.
"It's a neat way to plug into the league," Halpin said. "It's about 1,000 attendees from all elements of the NFL community. It's also a great moment for the [host] team to tell its story, its brand positioning [and] where it's going."
Ultimately, Lamping said the sister company of the Jaguars called Bold Events will begin trying to bring more events to the stadium similar to the NFL Consumer Product Summit. But many of those events likely won't have anything to do with the NFL and will also include the Daily's Place amphitheater and the Flex Field indoor training facility that are both currently under construction.
"Our goal is to have a very busy building," Lamping said. "It's important for two reasons: The indirect reason ... is when you have people traveling to Jacksonville, staying in downtown Jacksonville hotels, eating out at restaurants, it creates an economic impact that's good for the community ... .
"But directly, Bold Events was created as one of our strategies to generate local revenue to help meet our goal of having a stable, sustainable NFL franchise here in Jacksonville."
He added that the product summit did bring in revenue for the Jaguars operation, though he declined to disclose how much the league paid the franchise for hosting the event.
Many of the trade show attendees stayed at downtown hotels that were pitched as part of a package deal. The Jaguars also arranged entertainment and dining events at Intuition Ale Works near the stadium and at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.
"I think we have clearly added to the exhibition space capacity of downtown Jacksonville. And to a degree, we can utilize that space along with the other space that's already in downtown Jacksonville to attract more people to come and visit," Lamping said.
Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098
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