Ad Stunt Derailed by NFL Threats

A startup thought it had found a way around the “exorbitant” price for advertising during the Super Bowl — but the National Football League has other ideas.

Bowing to legal pressure from the NFL, Subjex.com said it is canceling its audacious “Super Bowl Sneak” contest, in which it agreed to pay cash and stock to attendees of Sunday’s Super Bowl who flashed the site’s URL during CBS’s live broadcast.

The search engine company offered pay $1,000 per second to the attendee who displayed the company’s Web address the longest.

The announcement made a few headlines — and evidently, some enemies.

According to NFL guidelines, advertising like Subjex.com’s is forbidden at games. It’s a violation of the agreement a ticket purchaser accepts with the price of their ticket, so a stunt like Subjex’s could result in the attendee-turned-advertiser being ejected, and possibly, fined.

“This ticket is a revocable license and … the NFL may refuse admission to, or eject, any ticket holder without refunding any portion of this ticket purchase price if the holder fails to comply with the terms and conditions contained herein, or is deemed by the NFL to be disorderly,” according to terms of the ticket agreement.

And unapproved advertising is indeed considered “disorderly,” according to the NFL.

Subjex.com, and its parent, Minneapolis-based company PageLab Networks, previously said the effort would take advantage of what it considered free ad space, and criticized the “ludicrous” prices for Super Bowl airtime — which is commanding an estimated $2 million per 30-second spot this year.

“While we still disagree over the right to control what people may wear or hold while attending games, we don’t have the resources to defend court action, and we don’t want game attendees getting barred or kicked out of the Super Bowl,” said Subjex.com president and chief executive Andrew Hyder.

A statement released by the company did not give any indication that it planned to purchase Super Bowl ad time, and it’s doubtful whether CBS would agree to sell to the company, even if it has inventory left at this late date.

Tony Taranto, the network’s vice president of sports sales, previously called Subjex.com’s effort “a stunt” that “I guarantee is not going to happen.”

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