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Weaver says see what you're missing


In the 30 years since an act of Congress gave us the TV blackout rules by which the NFL still operates, no one had ever offered the opinion that guided Wayne Weaver to consummate the football equivalent of the "deal of the century."

"The message you're sending is that the excitement of being here on gameday can't be replaced by seeing it on television," Weaver said, as he discussed the mega-sponsorship deal with Winn-Dixie that guarantees all Jaguars home games will be televised in Jacksonville this season.

Is there a more popular man in Jacksonville today? What owner has ever treated his fans more kindly?

Old-timers and hard-liners would accuse Weaver of being too kind. They would say he's giving his product away. They would say that's the message Weaver is sending with the Winn-Dixie deal, but Weaver shakes his head defiantly. After all, this is what he's done all of his adult life; market and sell. And he's done it very well.

"There are two schools of thought. One says that if you don't have the blackout rule, you become a studio game. I'm a contrarian to that belief," Weaver said. "I think it's a three-hour infomercial; there's something about being there."

Weaver believes that message will not be lost on the thousands of Jacksonville television viewers this season who, otherwise, would not have had Jaguars home games beamed into their living rooms. Had it not been for Winn-Dixie and Weaver's marketing genius, those viewers would've been lost to other entertainment endeavors. They would not have fully developed the habit of dedicating Sundays in the fall to Jaguars football. Now, they will.

But there's more.

"We asked Winn-Dixie that every time they give a ticket away to one of their customers, they would furnish us with the name of the person so we could re-market them next year," Weaver said.

Simply put, it's the biggest, most creative and potentially most productive piece of marketing in Jaguars history. It's a marketing program about which Weaver is intensely proud.

"We're a five-county community of 1.1 million people, and a lot of people can't attend Jaguars games. This is a huge benefit that Winn-Dixie has allowed our community to participate in Jaguars gameday. It's another example of how Jacksonville has come together to solve one of its problems," Weaver said.

And it's another example of how Weaver has turned a negative into a positive. Not enough hotel rooms gave birth to an attractive and exciting riverboat idea that put Jacksonville over the top in its bid for Super Bowl XXXIX. Now, Weaver has turned sagging ticket sales into an unprecedented sponsorship program that will be the envy of every franchise in the league with a ticket unsold.

The hard-liners will say he's giving away his product. Weaver says he's just showing people what they're missing.

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