‘Prime Time’ is the name of the game


Rich Ongirski on Coliseum US Image: Rich Ongirski on Coliseum US

Jones Sports, a division of Jones Sign Company Inc., provides an array of branding and architectural design elements needed for the success of a sports venue. From stadium naming rights and other sponsorship activations to architectural façades, updated concessions and retail locations, and scoreboards and video displays, Jones Sports helps prepare venues for ‘Prime Time’.

The Prime Time or the peak time is the block of broadcast programing taking place during the middle of the evening for a television show. It is mostly targeted towards adults. It is used by the major television networks to broadcast their season’s nightly programing.

Be it the print media or the electronic media, the flavor today is to grab eyeballs. Ditto is the case with the sports venue industry when it comes to designing spiffy stadiums. Talking on this line, Rich Ongirski, Senior Vice-President, Jones Sports, US, gives exclusive details to ‘Coliseum’ on how majestic sports venues in the United States are giving a lot of ‘Instagram’ or ‘Facebook’ moments to fans and how fans are helping promote the brand by plastering the stunning stadia photos all over social media.

‘Prime Time’-ready venues

Rich Ongirski stated that for venue operators getting their building ready for ‘Prime Time’ is an all-encompassing subject. In a post-COVID planet, safety and security of fans takes precedence over everything else.

  • Safety quotient should be highest in venues;
  • Squeaky-clean venues;
  • Ease of movement;
  • Ingress-egress-efficient;
  • Robust WiFi;
  • Paperless ticketing; and
  • Touchless concessions.

He added that the venue operators also have to ensure that the field and pitch are in “pristine condition” and the above factors count to make the venue right for ‘Prime Time’.

Jones Sports ensures that the people calling the shots in the venues are “delivering brand equity for their partners and providing a memorable experience for the fans”.

As Ongirski pointed out, “No matter what network is broadcasting the event – Sky Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, the camera is always positioned on the sponsor’s brand and it is just a great shot getting some equity for sponsors right on camera.”

Social media as a great tool

He informed that marketing firms are doing “great research” to gear up venues for ‘Prime Time’ like where to place the signage – “But, it is not always the broadcaster’s camera that venue operators worry about. You know there is often that moment that people are lifting their phones to snap a shot and either post it on Instagram or livestream it on Twitch.”

To drive home his point, he stated that when supporters of the Major League Soccer (MLS) team Columbus Crew put the shots of the ‘Crew’s’ residence – the 20,371-capacity Lower.com Field in Columbus (US) – on social media, the stadium name Lower.com gets marked there as well – “It is not purposefully that they are doing so, but they are plastering that brand all over social media and it’s getting brand equity for the clients.”

First impression

‘Prime Time’ means a lot of amazing things – one of those things is that it is building lifetime memories for a lot of kids.

Ongirski pointed out – “Whether it’s the National Basketball Association (NBA) team Milwaukee Bucks fascinating home – the 17,341-capacity Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee (US) – or a minor league hockey arena or a collegiate baseball stadium, the first time a fan enters the facility, it makes a really big impression on them. It gets ingrained in their memories. If the ‘Bucks’ home ground is clicked and then is posted on Facebook and Instagram, then the Bucks brand is plastered all over social media and it is being seen by millions. Consequently, everybody will want to enjoy the same time of experience and children will convince their parents to come back to the Bucks home venue time and time again. The social value is incredible.”

Jones Sports

Ongirski gave details about Jones Sports – “Jones Sports is a division of Jones Signs and we have been around for a pretty long time. With this time comes a lot of experience, building of a culture, a culture of customer success, building some very large facilities for one that was very small. We are now over 500 employees with huge manufacturing space and produce some of the most unique sponsor activations and architectural design elements.”

Five divisions

  • Jones Signs – the originator
  • Jones Sports
  • Jones Architectural Creations
  • Jones Outdoor
  • Jones Lighting Services


Areas of focus

  • Naming rights;
  • Sponsorship activations;
  • Wayfinding;
  • Custom lighting features;
  • Custom façades;
  • Concessions/retail signage;
  • Architectural design elements; and
  • Custom canopies/porte-cochère’s/shading structures.

He added, “A lot of our offerings are traditional signage and branding and wayfinding areas. Otherwise, we are helping build buildings, putting a façade on a new building, making an old building look new with façade work. We are delivering the video solution and their backend scoring solution that comes with it.”

Global presence

He further informed, “We are based in the United States and we have got installations all over the globe. But Jones Sports operations are only confined to US.”

Building brand value

Ongirski stated that one of the most popular ways of getting venues ready for ‘Prime Time’ is naming rights and building brand values for clients – “People are constantly taking shots of the 17,459-capacity Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle (US) and the 76,125-capacity Empower Field at Mile High in Denver (US). And to get attention, technology plays a big part in it. Technology catches the eye of a lot of people. Although the sponsors of Empower Field at Mile High and Climate Pledge Arena are looking for return on investments, they are looking for it in different ways. But, they are both using technology for this purpose. For instance, the Empower Field at Mile High signage with flags at night create motion by using pixel-controlled RGB LEDs to make the flags move and this catches the eye and absolutely attracts attention.”

He added, “And in the case of the Climate Pledge Arena, the designers here took a neon look and rather than using a high-maintenance form of signage, they used the old-fashioned neon and Jones Sports helped them develop custom neon for this signage. It looks like neon, it glows wonderfully and the colors are amazing because it literally glows in the dark. It’s a wonderful use of color and technology. And the National Hockey League (NHL) team Seattle Kraken has done a wonderful job of promoting the Climate Pledge Arena and almost all of their social media posts either begins or ends with a photo of their sign.”

The ‘Blimp Shot’

Ongirski further informed that there are other forms of naming rights, like on the top of the stadium. These days the ‘Blimp Shot’ and drone photography are helping drive decisions on rooftop signage – “Our customers keep coming back to us with an interest in moving from the old-fashioned painted signage to dimensional and illuminated signage.”

Illuminated signage vs. painted signage

Both the Fiserv Forum and the 18,064-capacity Chase Center in San Francisco, US, have rooftop signages and grab a lot of eyeballs – “The issue here though is illuminated signs can cost a million dollars or more than a painted rooftop sign. But, it is bang for the bucks. When there is heavy snowfall, the traditional painted sign gets covered and the signage is not visible because of the elements. So, though an illuminated signage is heavy on the pocket, it is rewarding too.”

Naming rights tips

  • Always go for an illuminated signage before grabbing the market with your naming rights deal;
  • Talk with the local officials and let them know what your intent is and what you would like to market to your potential sponsors and what might be on your roof in the future; and
  • Show them renderings of what can be put together and what other partners can put together so that you can get it approved in advance and when you get the contract with your naming rights partner, you are ready to go and you understand that they have that opportunity and it is not going to get rejected and you will not get disappointed later. It is a very critical move.


Retail angle

Ongirski pointed out that part of getting ready for ‘Prime Time’ is making sure your retail is ready. The retail plays a vital role in the total revenue generated by an organization.

In a venue, designers are creating imaginary store fronts, store décor, just to get the fans inside the retail outlet. This is why retail is an important part of getting ready for ‘Prime Time’.

Awe-inspiring architecture

Ongirski again stressed how the Columbus Crew’s Lower.com shot demonstrated how designers use architecture as a way of branding their stadium -“Probably, most new stadia are using the building’s features to attract attention and memorize their fans and give them something to talk about thus making the venue a place that they really want to come back to again. Even if the team’s performing poorly, fans want to go back to the stadium for the premium part of its remembering ‘it’s a cool place to go to’. So, teams like the Columbus Crew and the Major League Soccer (MLS) team FC Cincinnati’s residences or the Kraken’s Climate Pledge Arena is amazing or the Raiders with their palace in Las Vegas – the alluring 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium – they have all invested heavily in architecture and that architecture gives broadcasters and even local news outlets additional content and abundance of camera angles to capture the beauty of their iconic buildings and they are also capturing the brand and giving some equity to the brand partners. So, striking and awe-inspiring architecture is wonderful!”

Spectacular imagery

Ongirski informed that FC Cincinnati’s newly constructed home venue – the 26,000-capacity TQL Stadium in Cincinnati (US) – is one of Jones Sport’s favorite projects. FC Cincinnati was a project that was designed by Populous and it is “Just a really great combination of creative architectural design using technology to create dynamic graphic imagery. The contours and shapes and what catches the eye is this stunningly beautiful stadium with a one of a kind large formats spectacular imagery. It’s just a beautiful piece of work. Even during the daytime, one can see the contours, the ground staircase, its architecture that the cameras want to grab and while they are grabbing it, it is the grabbing of a brand, the brand’s mark.”

Grabbing eyeballs mantra

Ongirski wrapped up by stating that to grab eyeballs, one will have to do enough planning, modeling and collaboration – “Planning will have to take place in parts, parts that are unique, not available to the public. Everything will have to be planned out properly, measured properly and coordinated properly with your team.”

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