(NEW YORK) — When the NFL pre-season officially kicked off this week, some fans were shocked to see giant on-field advertising by the likes of Toyota. These weren’t just perimeter ads you see on the sides of football stadiums, but giant lettering and letters digitally added to the red zone.
The advertising was evident on Thursday, when the Baltimore Ravens played the San Francisco 49ers, whose “exclusive auto partner” is Toyota.
When the teams played between the end zone and the 20-yard line, giant red letters showing “Toyota Red Zone” appeared on the field under players’ feet at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
“I have seen TV ads during NFL games. I have seen graphics displayed on the field during NFL games. I have not seen anything quite like this from the Niners broadcast (through the NFL Network) before,” wrote SB Nation contributor Seth Rosenthal.
Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, told ABC News that the on-field advertising will take place during the pre-season only.
“No league network partner is able to do this. This will not be during the regular season,” he said. “Teams are responsible for their pre-season telecasts.”
Sona Iliffe-Moon, a spokeswoman for Toyota, told ABC News that the car manufacturer won’t show the “Toyota Red Zone” anymore during the pre-season.
“We’re football fans too. We’ve heard fan feedback and it’s not our intention to distract from the joy of the game,” she said. “Toyota will continue to be a strong supporter of the 49ers as part of our multi-year partnership and we’re working to ensure that future brand mentions won’t distract from game play. During the remainder of the 49ers’ pre-season games, fans and viewers should no longer see the Toyota Red Zone once the ball is snapped.”
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Paul Menser, Bizmojo Idaho
Debra Goldschmidt, CNN