Wednesday, February 13, 2002

San Francisco Forty-Niner quarterback Jeff Garcia taped an interview with NFL Films that will be shown as part of the NFL Quarterback Challenge on CBS. The event will take place tomorrow but won't be aired until summer. The show, an annual post-Pro Bowl event, has become Kauai's premier tourism marketing tool.

Kauai takes its time
with NFL TV show

The NFL Quarterback Challenge
is the isle's top marketing tool

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> San Francisco Forty Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia sat in front of an NFL Films television crew on a Kauai hilltop yesterday with Haupu Ridge and Nawiliwili Harbor in the background.

Garcia was telling an interviewer how thrilled the Niners were to beat their division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, twice this past season in overtime. Garcia is on Kauai to participate in tomorrow's NFL Quarterback Challenge, an annual made-for-television skills competition among many of the league's top quarterbacks.

But when the QBC, as it is now known all over Kauai, is shown next summer on CBS, officials of the Kauai Economic Development Board and the Kauai Visitors Bureau won't be listening to what Garcia has to say about beating Atlanta.

As they did the past two years, they will be sitting in front of their television sets with stopwatches, timing how much exposure Haupu Ridge and Nawiliwili Harbor are getting while Garcia talks.

Tourism officials on Kauai figure they've been getting a good deal in the past two years since the event returned to the island. The QBC was born on Kauai in 1989 but shifted to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., in 1993 after Hurricane Iniki demolished Vidinha Stadium in Lihue. The NFL Quarterback Club voted to bring it back to Kauai in 2000.

In the past three years, the NFL Quarterback Challenge has become Kauai's single most important tourism event. The Hawaii Tourism Authority puts up $300,000 to help fund the event (NFL Films pays about $500,000 and Direct-TV, the event sponsor, pays about $1 million.) Unlike most other sports events, the contract with the NFL requires that Kauai receive a minimum amount of air time showing the island's scenery.

In each of the past two years, Kauai has received a little more than 18 minutes of exposure during the two-hour shows. And that's what Kauai tourism officials are timing when they watch.

"If we had to buy time on one of the major networks, they would charge $40,000 to $60,000 for a 30-second spot," said Pam Parker of the Kauai Economic Development Board, who organizes the event every year. "The $300,000 in tax money would buy us only about six minutes instead of the 18 minutes we receive," Parker said.

"And how much do you have to pay an NFL quarterback to endorse a product?" she asked. "We have a parade of the top quarterbacks endorsing Kauai in the television spots every year for free. We could never afford to pay for that."

And there are no production costs. NFL Films puts together the promotional spots and absorbs the expense as part of its costs.

This year's roster includes Garcia, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, Aaron Brooks of the New Orleans Saints, Doug Flutie of the San Diego Chargers, Tom Brady of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Kordell Stewart of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jake Plummer of the Arizona Cardinals.

Retired quarterbacks scheduled to compete include Warren Moon, Ken O'Brien, John Elway and Boomer Esiason.

Taping begins at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Vidinha Stadium and the event is free to the public.

Two variables that neither the Kauai Economic Development Board nor NFL Films can control are CBS and the weather.

The Quarterback Challenge traditionally has been shown on the weekend just prior to the beginning of the NFL exhibition season in August.

It was scheduled at that time in 2000 and it was seen by 2.5 million households, ranking it second only to the Pro Bowl in viewership of a Hawaii sporting event. But last year CBS decided to air it about a month earlier with little promotion. The number of households watching the event dropped to 1.9 million.

"We weren't real pleased with that," said Ross Ketover, one of the NFL Films producers working on the event. "Obviously we would like to have it run right before the exhibition season but that decision is totally up to CBS."

This week's foul weather shut down plans to go through annual ritual of filming quarterbacks kayaking and hiking and playing golf on Kauai. Instead they were forced to do interviews at scenic spots, which is why Garcia was talking about beating the Falcons on a hill above Nawiliwili Harbor.

"Not only was that not Plan A, it wasn't even Plan B. It was the Punt Plan, but it will still look great on television," Parker said.

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