Kroger, P&G buy Bengals tickets for veterans to help avoid local TV blackout

CINCINNATI -- It looks like the people at the Kroger Co. and Procter & Gamble want to watch the Bengals' wild-card playoff game.

In an effort to assist in reaching a sellout so the game will be televised in local markets, the Cincinnati/Dayton Division of Kroger has purchased a "large quantity" of tickets to Sunday's playoff game between the Bengals and the San Diego Chargers, the organization announced Friday morning .

Later in the afternoon P&G announced it had bought the remaining tickets to help avoid an NFL-mandated blackout.

“On behalf of the entire Bengals organization, I want to thank Procter & Gamble and Kroger for their great leadership, helping the team and Cincinnati region get the game sold out and on television for everyone," said Katie Blackburn, Bengals executive vice president.

The game will be played at 1:05 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati in front of a capacity crowd of more than 65,000 fans.

"We actually just started thinking about this in the last couple days when we started hearing the news," said Rachael Betzler, a representative for Kroger Co. "We kind of wanted to see how things were going to go and see if we needed to step in and help out."

But the company didn't buy the tickets just to help guarantee the game was aired on local television. They said they wanted to do something to give back to select members of the community who've given a great deal to their country -- the troops.

With the help of local radio stations in Cincinnati and Dayton, Kroger will distribute the tickets purchased by both companies to U.S. Military veterans and active duty service members at several store locations in the area.

"We want the community to not only watch the game but also an opportunity for us to thank the local military for what they do to defend our country everyday," Betzler said.

Customers just need to show their Military ID for two free tickets to Sunday's game. The offer is valid while supplies last.

"This is an exciting time to be a Bengals fan," said Sukankya Madlinger, president of Kroger’s Cincinnati/Dayton Division, in a press release. “And, Kroger is a huge supporter of the brave men and women who protect and defend our country. Giving them the opportunity to watch the ‘undefeated at home’ Bengals in action is a great way for us to say ‘thank you’ for your brave service."

The distribution will take place on Saturday, Jan. 4 at the following Kroger store locations:

Kroger Store Locations

  • Blue Ash - 4100 Hunt Road, 4-6 p.m.
  • Amelia 262 - Main Street, 10 a.m. - noon
  • Liberty Township - 7300 Yankee Road, noon - 2 p.m.
  • Newport - 130 Pavilion Parkway, 10 a.m. - noon
  • Dent - 5830 Harrison Avenue, 1-3 p.m.
  • Austin Landing - 10101 Landing Way 10 a.m. - noon
  • Englewood - 885 Union Boulevard, noon - 2 p.m.

The Cincinnati-based grocery store chain did not indicate how many tickets it purchased but as of Thursday morning there were 7,200 tickets available, according to the Bengals organization.

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If the team didn't sell all of its available reserve seats by 4 p.m. Friday the game will be blacked out in the local TV markets. The original deadline was set for 1 p.m. Thursday but the organization received an extension to Friday from the NFL.

The Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers also received extensions. On Friday, both teams reported they had sold all remaining tickets, in part because of aid from businesses in the community.

Jim Irsay, owner and CEO of the Colts, reported on Twitter that another grocer helped his organization avoid the blackout by purchasing 1,200 tickets and giving them away to military families.

"Meijer's a superstar in our community. Bought 1200 tix and giving to local military families," Irsay wrote on his personal Twitter account (@JimIrsay).

The Bengals also reached out to local businesses like Kroger in an effort to ensure local fans could watch the game on Sunday.

Kroger officials said they wanted to do what they could to allow all Bengals fans in the Tri-State to be able to take part in a one of the region's most popular pastimes -- watching football on Sunday.

"We know there are lots of fans who want to watch the game, whether they're going to watch it from the comfort of their home or have the opportunity to watch it at the actual game. We want to help make that a reality for everyone," Betzler said.

In addition to Kroger, restaurateur Jeff Ruby gave ticket sales a boost on Thursday by buying a block of 100 and challenging local businesses to do the same. Ruby said he would donate the tickets to AFTA Cincinnati (Armed Forces Ticket Association ) so military

families can attend the game.

He also challenged other local businesses to help fill the stadium.

On Friday afternoon, the Bengals announced P&G and its brands – Tide, Gillette, Cover Girl and Bounty – stepped up to purchase the remaining available tickets. The tickets will be added to the complimentary tickets Kroger is giving away, according to Matt Hollenkamp, with P&G Sports Marketing.

“We are happy to do our part to help sell out the Bengals game and give back to those who have served us through the military,” he said.

The Bengals cited support from Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati Insurance Company, Cintas, United Dairy Farmers, Liberty Mutual/Safeco and WCPO/Scripps.

"Through the efforts from many of our business partners and fans across the region who stepped forward to buy tickets, our team is sure to have a great home-field advantage Sunday," Blackburn said.

Matt Davis with the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce said selling out the game is important to the city's continuing development and its national reputation.

"It's very important that we have a sellout for Cincinnati. It helps us showcase the city in such a great light before a national stage," he said. 

"We have a tremendous skyline, a tremendous downtown -- a growing downtown that is going through a great renaissance -- and this will be a great opportunity to showcase this to the rest of the country."

The game will also have a considerable impact on the local economy.

University of Cincinnati Economics Center Analyst Jeffry Rexhausen told WCPO that Sunday's game could have an economic impact of $14 million to the Tri-State -- including local bar and eatery spending and tickets.

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