If yesterday's fourth annual Eagles Sponsors Summit wasn't officially minicamp, it certainly had to feel like one to the almost 80 participants.
A "pep talk" in the morning from Eagles president Joe Banner and chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie...In essence, a game plan that focused on the future of the NFL, articulated by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue... The "team" photo, taken with coach Andy Reid...Drills, with several Eagles players, including quarterback A.J. Feeley and new linebacker Takeo Spikes.
And maybe the most exhausting part of the day, to stretch the analogy, an "on the clock" networking session that gathered them into small groups and gave them just enough time to rotate from table to table and trade introductions and business cards.
The full-day assembly included lunch in the NovaCare Complex Cafe and happy hour. For the Eagles, it was a chance to thank their sponsors, who pour in millions to the most lucrative and successful sports franchise in the city. At the same time, it allowed the reps from almost 40 businesses who have partnered with the Birds to meet and trade information.
A session like this would seem to be standard in the NFL, but several sponsors said yesterday that the Birds are only among a dozen teams that reach out to their sponsors in this fashion. Among those attending yesterday were folks from Lincoln Financial, US Airways, Staples and Turkey Hill.
They heard Mark Donovan, the senior vice president of business operations, outline a 2007 season that will be tied in heavily to the team's 75th anniversary. They are using that occasion, he said, to launch a virtual museum that, among other things, will allow fans to pick their favorite Eagle at each position. Expect, he added, to see a new look to the team's home page in the next couple of weeks.
He used fresh data to emphasize what all the sponsors knew already, that nothing draws people in this region to the TV like the Birds — a 31.8 rating and a 55 share in 2006. Even the preseason games drew a 15.2 rating, he said.
You couldn't expect the day to go by without some mention of the recently completed draft. One attendee, prefacing with "we're fans first, then sponsors," used a morning Q&A to steer the first question toward the team's controversial first pick, Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb. Banner said that once their top choices were taken, the Eagles turned their attention to Kolb. Feeling that he wouldn't be on the board when they picked again, he continued, they decided not to wait. *