Jaguars game in London has local business executives preparing for different kind of victory [The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville]
(Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 06--The venue is venerable, the city old, the game -- well, we call it football, too, but it's the NFL kind.
The bright lights and cheers from the famous Wembley Stadium in London could create winning business opportunities for Jacksonville. That's the hope of economic and city leaders as they gear up for a major outreach effort as the Jaguars prepare to travel to London to play on Oct. 27.
"We're going to take full advantage of this mission to London," said Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership, an economic development group.
Mallot said a delegation from Jacksonville is lined up to hit London with a serious onslaught of pitches featuring the economic attributes of the city. Mayor Alvin Brown, Jacksonville City Council President Bill Gulliford, University of North Florida President and former Mayor John Delaney and a host of JAX Chamber and JAXUSA Partnership officials will fly to London the week the Jaguars play the San Francisco 49ers.
If all goes well, the delegation will succeed in recruiting manufacturing business and other permanent jobs, while also encouraging more European visitors to Jacksonville and broadening the Jaguars' fan base. The Jaguars game at Wembley will be the social function that brings all the business leaders together.
This year's game in London is the first of four to be played in four years in an agreement Jaguars owner Shad Khan made with the NFL. The Jaguars' game comes on the heels of the Sept. 29 meeting between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley.
Some of the groundwork already has been cleared for the Jacksonville business contingent. Mike Breen, senior director of international business development for JAXUSA, returned Wednesday from the United Kingdom, where he has scheduled meetings for Jacksonville officials with London business leaders for game week. Breen said one London-based company, Powerboat1, a high-speed-watercraft manufacturer and organizer of championship water racing events, is considering holding events here.
"They are already working the city's [Jacksonville] people on looking at setting up a venue that would have races here, on the St. Johns River in downtown," Breen said, adding that could bring an estimated $2.5 million in revenue to Jacksonville for each race event.
"This could lead to a permanent location for them," Breen said.
Brown said he's traveled to Brazil, with another trip scheduled for China, to pitch proposed business partnerships. But the London expedition tied in with the Jaguars on an NFL platform is different and sheds a brighter light on Jacksonville.
"Shad Khan and the Jaguars, Visit Jacksonville, JAX Chamber, JAXUSA are all going to London with a shared vision on jobs and opportunity for companies to expand and relocate, but also to invest; it's foreign investment," Brown said.
Not the least of which, the London exposure ideally would help the Jaguars.
"Our hope is to grow the Jaguars brand, develop more fans, and elevate the awareness not only of the team and the brand but also of the city of Jacksonville. This presents an opportunity to do all of that," Jaguars spokesman Dan Edwards said Thursday.
The Oct. 27 game at Wembley Stadium is sold out, with more than 80,000 tickets sold, Edwards said.
Meanwhile, Visit Jacksonville, the city's tourist development organization, has been busy in London. The organization handed out thousands of items from a promotional tent at the Regents Street Block Party Sept. 28 in London and interacted with an estimated 20,000 people, according to Patty Jimenez, spokeswoman for Visit Jacksonville.
On the day of the Jaguars game in London, Visit Jacksonville will have the same tent at a tailgate party that 50,000 people are expected to attend. But Jimenez said the organization plans more sustained marketing plans, built from the Jags game.
Visit Jacksonville already has advertisements and marketing placements in the British Visitor Handbook; a 5-minute video aboard US Airways flights that will be shown to passengers traveling into and out of London, along with a print advertisement in US Airways Magazine; and a full-page advertisement in Long Haul Magazine, a travel periodical for the United Kingdom.
Visit Jacksonville is looking to attract the leisure traveler to Jacksonville and bolster tourism revenue. Jacksonville's business leaders are hoping to land permanent jobs and increased manufacturing.
"We can do both at the same time," Brown said. "We've got Visit Jax going with ads and commercials showing and marketing how beautiful Jacksonville is to take advantage of our assets. Most people don't even know we have beaches here. Why is that?"
Brown said he'll be the ambassador for the city in London and will meet with many representatives of the companies the Jacksonville contingent is targeting. Most of those remain confidential, according to Breen, because of ongoing negotiations.
But Brown described higher ambition, where the U.K. focus is a springboard to the larger European market and where the overseas campaign would span the entire four years of the Jaguars' London schedule.
Though the Jaguars are in what may shape up to be the worst season in the history of the franchise -- coming off what was the worst season last year when the team won only two games -- Brown said European interest in American football is not centered on individual team performance as much as it is cultural.
"I'm not concerned at all" about the Jaguars' record in relation to the business expedition, Brown said.
Mallot acknowledged "it would probably be a lot more fun" to be pitching the merits of Jacksonville if the Jaguars were winning. But the attributes of the city's economic and cultural power will carry the day.
"We have an NFL team. We've got our owner there with us. We've got our mayor with us. We've got key business executives and others. It really becomes about business, and the game becomes an environment that creates a relationship that we wouldn't have in another way. Whether we win or lose the game is not critical to how well we do in looking into business development," Mallot said.
Ultimately, Jacksonville's presence in London is reflecting a more cosmopolitan approach to spinning business off NFL-related activities, Breen said. He was in London for the Steelers-Vikings game and said he noticed many attending the game were from countries throughout Europe. As he prepares to return to London for the Jaguars' game, Breen said the Jacksonville economic plans for hooking into that market are not unrealistic.
Added to all that is Khan's recent acquisition of the English Premier League soccer franchise Fulham, which Khan assumed control over in July. Mallot said no matter what the Jaguars do, Jacksonville -- through Khan -- now has a foothold in the U.K. market.
"That has a huge impact in London about Jacksonville and about Shad Khan," Mallot said. "It's creating an environment where there's more interest and more partnership and a greater sense that the end result can be bigger than the individual parts."
Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098
(c)2013 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)
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