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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 16, 201312:00 PM EST

Winn-Dixie, Jacksonville Jaguars sponsorship deal expires: New partner to be announced

by: Karen Brune Mathis and Mark Basch

Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.'s sponsorship of the Jacksonville Jaguars has expired and was not renewed, ending a relationship the supermarket chain first kicked off during the franchise's inaugural season in 1995.

"The Jaguars enjoyed a partnership with Winn-Dixie for more than a decade, but we will be announcing a new partner in the next few weeks," said Dan Edwards, Jacksonville Jaguars senior vice president of communications, in a statement Tuesday.

Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc. sponsored the Jaguars for two seasons in 2001-02, but a spokesman has not commented whether the company is the new partner.

"I cannot confirm or comment on any potential or new sponsors until they are announced," Edwards said.

Brian Wright, senior communications director for Jacksonville-based Bi-Lo Winn-Dixie, said Tuesday afternoon the agreement ended at the conclusion of the past football season.

"We and the Jaguars have decided not to renew," Wright said in an emailed statement.

"We remain huge fans of our football team and believe Shad Khan and Mark Lamping are making the right changes. As the upcoming season begins, we will cheer on the hometown team," he said, referring to the new Jaguars owner and the new team president.

Wright said he could not comment about the price of the sponsorship. He said the deals usually are for three or four years at a time.

Asked whether Winn-Dixie or the Jaguars initiated the decision to not renew the sponsorship, Wright said he stood by his statement that both decided not to renew.

"It was a mutual decision," Edwards said.

Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. was an exclusive sponsor of the Jaguars from their inaugural season in 1995 through the 2000 season. Its sponsorship deal included designating sections of the stadium as the Winn-Dixie Family Fun Zone.

Publix Super Markets Inc. outbid Winn-Dixie to take over as the team's supermarket chain before the 2001 season, and remained a sponsor through 2002.

However, Winn-Dixie regained a connection with the Jaguars in 2002 when it agreed to buy tickets to assure home games would not be blacked out.

After the 2002 season, Winn-Dixie outbid Publix to regain its status as the Jaguars' official supermarket sponsor.

Winn-Dixie also started a sponsorship deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. However, after Winn-Dixie filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2005, it received court permission to cancel its deal with the Buccaneers but it continued its sponsorship of the Jaguars.

Winn-Dixie emerged from Chapter 11 in 2006 and continued its sponsorship relationship with the Jaguars.

Bi-Lo LLC bought Winn-Dixie in March 2012 and moved the headquarters of Bi-Lo Holding LLC, the company that owns Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo stores, to Jacksonville.

The company has been notifying vendors.

An email Monday to vendors from Rich Romano, manager of sales and marketing and Center Store with Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie Stores, stated:

"As many of you know, Winn-Dixie has been a proud sponsor of the Jacksonville Jaguars for many years. Our sponsorship agreement with the Jags expired at the end of the past football season, and we and the Jaguars have decided to part ways amicably," it said.

His email said, as did Wright's, that "we remain huge fans of our football team and believe Shad Khan and Mark Lamping are making the right changes. As the upcoming season begins, we will cheer on the hometown team as loyal fans."

At the same time, the email said Winn-Dixie announced the Florida State Seminoles as its new Tailgate program partner this year.

Romano said in the email the company was "pleased to introduce Tailgating to the BI-LO markets by leveraging our existing relationships with the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers. Both are powerhouse schools with HUGE fan bases that will help drive a high level of consumer interest, which we are confident will translate into case movement for our Level Up Tailgate Partners."

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