Jaguars already benefiting from impact of Trevor Lawrence
50 percent of the fans making a season-ticket deposit have never purchased a ticket before to see a Jaguars game
Even before Trevor Lawrence hears his name called in Thursday night's NFL Draft as the Jaguars expected No. 1 overall pick, he has already significantly impacted the franchise.
Because of projections by many NFL scouts and draft experts that he is the best quarterback prospect to come along in decades, Lawrence has helped turn a restless fan base in Jacksonville back to one that can't wait for a new season to start that's still five months away.
Jaguars fans will be able to celebrate the biggest pick in franchise history at TIAA Bank Field for Day 1 of the NFL Draft. But the draft party will be at limited capacity, approximately around 6,000 fans, who were required to register, with pod seating and a mask mandate in effect for the NFL-sanctioned event.
Since Dec. 27, when the Jaguars clinched the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in their franchise history, and when Urban Meyer was hired as head coach in mid-January, the Jaguars have continued to see a significant surge in fans wanting to make a deposit on season tickets for this upcoming season.
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But unlike in 2018, when the Jaguars last experienced a similar surge in ticket sales after reaching the AFC championship game in 2017, almost 50 percent of the fans over the past four months who have put down deposits have never purchased a ticket before to see a Jaguars game.
''In my 10 seasons here, I've never seen a statistic like that where half of your audience is brand new,'' said Chad Johnson, the Jaguars senior vice president of sales and service and chief content officer. ''They had no two-way relationship with us whatsoever. The momentum is significant and real and it has continued since December
''The other significant audience we're connecting to right now are what we would call the last season-ticket holders, people who have given their season tickets up from 2018 or before that. We've connected with some of our long-tenured season ticket members that took some time off and we've connected with the new group.''
The Jaguars' new group of season-ticket holders are also younger - 10 years than their current season-tickets that includes last season's group.
The Jaguars announced in March that they are anticipating full capacity at TIAA Bank Field for 2021 after having limited capacity last season due to COVID-19 precautions.
At 21, Lawrence is a star; a can't miss prospect. He has long been expected to be the top prospect taken in this year’s draft that the Jaguars have had their sights on since December. An opportunity to coach a talent like Lawrence also swayed Meyer to come out of a two-year retirement.
''We’ve had a couple Zoom calls with him and he’s been great, and we like where we’re at with him,'' Meyer said.
Lawrence has won at every level playing quarterback. A four-year starter at Cartersville High School, he went 52-2, including a 41-game winning streak and 14-2 record in the playoffs. He led his team to two state titles and four regional appearances. Lawrence passed for 13,908 passing yards and 161 touchdowns with 21 interceptions in four seasons.
A five-star recruit, Lawrence went 34-2 as a three-year starter at Clemson. Lawrence, who led Clemson to a national championship as a freshman, passed for 10,098 yards and 90 yards in three seasons.
Now, he is expected to go to a franchise that's already intriguing with Meyer coming out of retirement after never having a losing season in 17 years as a college coach, including winning two national championships at Florida and one at Ohio State.
''I think he’s going into a unique situation with Urban Meyer coming in there in year one,'' ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. ''And Urban went out and hired Brian Schottenheimer and Darrell Bevell, a couple of guys that obviously have a ton of NFL experience. I think that helps him.
''Obviously anytime you’re the first pick overall you’re going to feel some of that weight too. But he’s been in the spotlight in this quarterback world that now is going down in some cases to middle school. That’s all he’s known since he’s been about been about 14. The guy started as a freshman in high school.
After nine losing seasons in 10 years, including a 1-15 record in 2020, the Jaguars have quite possibly found their savior. If nothing else, they are relevant again, being discussed positively from draft analysts to sports commentators from Florida to California.
Lawrence is an attraction, wholesome and marketable. He's already signed national endorsement deals with Gatorade, Adidas and has partnered with Blockfolio, a global cryptocurrency investment app that is going to place his signing bonus into an account with the company.
''We want to work with athletes who are leaders among their peers, committed to performance and authentic users of our products,'' said Jeff Kearney, the global head of sports marketing for Gatorade. ''Trevor is all of those things, and with his help we hope to inspire and fuel the next generation of athletes.”
While Lawrence is likely to gain more endorsements, especially if he emerges as expected, the Jaguars can expect a financial bonanza, too, having their first legitimate franchise quarterback in 18 years since Mark Brunell.
''It's going to help sell sponsorships and renew sponsorships,'' said David Carter, a USC sports business professor. ''I think they are really going to be able to sell this message that it's a new day, a new season, and get in while you can. That's not to say they are going to sell out the building and we don't what's going to happen with COVID and all that, but they have an opportunity to tell a very compelling, precise story. A new star, a new coach, and new team and how they go about marketing that and captivating interests of fans and their corporate clientele is going to be very important.''
A new era will be ushered in Thursday night and Lawrence could the Jaguars' starting quarterback for the next decade.