The following is a letter written by Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur Blank to fans:
I'm sure many of you have read various news accounts regarding the National Guard's marketing partnership with a number of NFL teams, including the Falcons, and other sports entities. Unfortunately, many of the stories failed to accurately present the business relationships between the two groups, and we want to make sure you have the facts to alleviate any concerns you may have.
Our marketing and sponsorship agreement with the National Guard is designed to fulfill their objectives of increasing awareness and aiding in recruiting efforts, which has become more important in an all-volunteer service environment. This is no different than any other sponsorship agreement in that it is structured to fit a business need.
Our agreement with the National Guard during the 2014 season included advertising on the Falcons website and in the Atlanta Falcons Playbook, which is distributed to fans on game day; signage in the Georgia Dome; LED and backlit messaging on Falcons game days; activation at Falcons Landing on game days; and participation in a number of other game program activities.
As explained by National Guard spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt in a recent story on ESPN.com, their spending with teams in all sports on year-round advertising and marketing programs is a way to reach important audiences.
"We have hundreds of [sponsorship agreements] with teams, including minor league baseball and at high schools," he said. "We have found that spending in sports to help us recruit in our 18-24 demographic works out for us."
Separate and apart from this business arrangement, the Falcons have long supported the Armed Services, including the National Guard, in a variety of ways as part of our community outreach and philanthropic activities. These include, among other things:
- Military base visits by coaches and players
- Fishing trips with soldiers injured in the line of duty
- Game day Flag Crew participation by various members of the Armed Forces
- Falcons players joint appearances with military personnel at school assemblies and other locations
- Military holiday parties hosted by Falcons players
- Attendance by military personnel at Falcons Training Camp, and just this year at a recent OTA practice
- Ticket purchases and donations by Falcons players to military personnel
Our commitment to the community is an important part of our responsibilities as this city and state's professional football team. It also extends beyond that to the work our family foundation is doing in Atlanta's Historic Westside Neighborhoods adjacent to the new Atlanta stadium to create a safer, healthier and more prosperous environment for its residents. In addition, our foundation is in the second year of a three-year $350,000 grant to the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation to work with the Georgia State Board of Education to deliver a Character Development Program to more than 140,000 Georgia middle and high school students annually in partnership with the Georgia National Guard and other businesses and foundations.
It is regretful that the good works of our NFL league office and teams were overlooked in the news stories of the last few days, and I hope this letter aids in painting a more accurate portrayal. We remain steadfast in our desire to be good citizens and proud supporters of our community, including our support of the important work of our Armed Forces.
- Arthur Blank