With a $5 million ad budget and superstar spokesmen, the NFL's Dallas Cowboys appear to be a heavy favorite to win tomorrow's vote for a new, $650 million stadium in suburban Arlington, Texas.
But Allyn & Co. CEO Rob Allyn, whose agency handles advertising and public relations supporting the team's campaign for a new stadium, believes the election will be close—even though opponents are operating on comparative pocket change.
"If you think the presidential race is close, this Arlington thing is even tighter," said Allyn. In fact, the most recent Fort Worth Star-Telegram poll showed voters in the Dallas suburb are evenly split on whether to commit local tax revenue to the stadium.
In an effort to sway the 14 percent of voters who are undecided, Allyn & Co. in Dallas, a unit of Omnicom Group's Fleishman-Hillard, last week launched a final TV spot that features Cowboys personalities such as former quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, who urge viewers to vote for the stadium. In a spot that broke last month, coach Bill Parcells pitches the venue via a "chalk-talk" format, describing—through diagrams made in chalk on a blackboard—how the stadium will benefit Arlington.
When the team couldn't strike a deal on new construction with the city of Irving, Texas (where the stadium is now), they turned to Dallas. But Dallas County declined to offer as much tax revenue as the team wanted. The Cowboys then redirected their efforts to Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers' new Ameriquest Field and nearby Six Flags Over Texas.
"When we were talking about building the stadium in Dallas, it was like we were starting on the opponents' 20-yard line," Allyn said. "When we began talking to Arlington, it was like … starting on our own 20-yard line."
To promote the endeavor, the Cowboys had to buy TV time that ran throughout the North Texas region, though only the Arlington voters were targeted. Such an effort was cost-prohibitive to stadium opponents operating under the name No Jones Tax—a reference to team owner Jerry Jones. With reported spending of less than $44,000, the group has relied on street-corner demonstrations and hand-made posters.
Allyn, 45, a veteran political operative in Texas, has a personal winning streak on such matters. He handled successful drives for venues like the American Airlines Center, where the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and the NHL's Dallas Stars play, and the Phoenix Coyotes' arena for that NHL team, which opened in Glendale, Ariz., last December. Allyn, who has managed the campaigns of the last five Dallas mayors, said his proudest accomplishment is the three-year effort to get Vicente Fox elected president of Mexico in 2000 following 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party.
Allyn started his shop 21 years ago after working for Frito-Lay. He said he knows his political work isn't likely to win any creative awards, but he lauded the shop's speed, saying that at times it has gone from concept to broadcast in 48 hours. "In politics, there's no tomorrow," he said. "Unlike traditional advertising for products such as potato chips, coming in second doesn't do you much good."