The AFL has plotted its marketing strategy around Soul co-majority owner Jon Bon Jovi and Crush chief executive officer and co-owner John Elway, the Hall of Fame NFL quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos.
Don't be surprised if the ESPN cameras find Bon Jovi and Elway for more than a few cutaway shots during the game.
Bon Jovi and Elway hope there comes a day when they are background figures when their teams are discussed. That, however, won't happen soon.
That is why Bon Jovi and Elway took time to talk to reporters yesterday on a conference call to promote the game and, of course, arena football in general.
With the two most recognizable faces competing, this game is taking on a theatrical atmosphere.
"There will always be a tension when John comes to town," Bon Jovi said. "Everybody wants to see John at the games, and because of the marquee ownership, this is a big one."
Elway says he realizes the AFL can always use more publicity despite being in its 21st season. And who better to deliver than a Super Bowl quarterback and a rock star?
"We have to be successful at the league level to be successful at the team level," Elway said. "Everybody helps as much as they can in doing these type of things."
Bon Jovi said 11,700 tickets had been sold as of early yesterday afternoon. The Wachovia Center holds 17,597 for arena football.
Possibly because it's the home opener, or because the Soul have won their first two games by an average of 31 points per game, there appears to be buzz around the team. Of course, the rivalry between Bon Jovi and Elway, who have become good friends, helps.
"No question: With ESPN and Bon Jovi and Elway, it gives this game more hype," Soul coach Bret Munsey said. "I honestly treat it as another game, and I don't want to get caught up in the hype. If we play Soul football, we will be OK."
This is Bon Jovi's and the Soul's fourth season, and the team is 0-4 against the Crush, which no doubt will be one of the television storylines.
"It would be nice to beat them, trust me," Bon Jovi said. "I would like to exorcise more of my demons, but they are a hell of an organization, and whoever shows up and wants it more will win."
And many will show up or watch on TV to see the celebrity owners.
"If we are able to help our fellow team owners, it's good for all of us," Bon Jovi said. "There is only so long we can do that until we're not worthy of your time."
That time had not come yet, which is why even though two of the better teams in the Arena Football League will be competing, plenty of eyes will be staring at the owners' boxes.
Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.