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Bills urging fans: 'Make Mom Proud'; New campaign looks to tackle crowd behavior

The Buffalo Bills tonight will unveil a new campaign aimed at curbing rowdiness at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and it's based on an important person in all of our lives:

Our mothers.

The idea is simple: When you get ready to do or say something stupid or vulgar, just imagine that your mother is watching and listening.

"Make Mom Proud" is the tagline for the new marketing blitz that will be featured on the scoreboard and in the concourses, game-day programs, public-address announcements and banner advertising. The message also will be featured on former Bills players' TV shows and in some radio spots.

Here are some of the messages from the mouths of the four actresses portraying mothers of various ages and ethnicities in the videos:

*"This is a family event, so watch your mouth, or you'll catch a whole lot of heck."

*"Unless you're heading for the end zone, there are some lines we just don't cross. Remember to be considerate of everyone so we can all enjoy the game."

*"Get caught smoking in this house, and you'll be grounded 'til next season."

*"Don't make me come up there."

The campaign, being unveiled at tonight's home preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, comes just one week after one of the worst outbreaks of violence at a National Football League game.

Two men were shot outside Candlestick Park in San Francisco last Saturday, after a dispute linked to obscene references following the 49ers-Raiders preseason game. A third person was knocked unconscious in a separate incident.

The timing is coincidental, as the Bills marketing campaign has been in the works for months.

"Obviously, what happened in San Francisco is a clear sign that we need to have a continued focus on fan safety and our code-of-conduct initiatives," Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon said.

The "Make Mom Proud" campaign -- replacing the old "Be Loud. Be Proud. Be Considerate" -- is one of many new initiatives by the Bills this season to fine-tune its fans' game-day behavior. The others include:

Opening the stadium parking lots one hour later than previously, four hours before kickoff instead of five. So for 1 p.m. games, the lots will open at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.

That's meant to reduce the pregame drinking by an hour.

Turning Ralph Wilson Stadium into a smoke-free facility. Previously, fans could smoke in designated areas outside the stadium walls.

Smoking still will be allowed in the parking lots.

Adopting, on a trial basis, a "one-car, one-space" policy in Lots 2 and 3, just west of Abbott Road, with each vehicle directed to park next to the one that entered the lot just before it.

While some tailgaters already have complained that the policy will prevent them from tailgating in their traditional spots, team officials hope the more orderly parking process will lead to more orderly behavior in those lots.

Besides trying to appeal to their rowdiest fans, the Bills also are trying to set a tone and create more of a community atmosphere both inside and outside the stadium walls.

"You can't do this alone," said Marc J. Honan, the team's senior vice president of marketing and broadcasting. "You need the fans' involvement."

So fans will be encouraged to report any abuses, through the telephone and texting numbers provided to them.

"Neighbors take care of neighbors," Brandon explained. "We've tried to create neighborhoods within our facility and in the tailgating experience."

The "Make Mom Proud" message, being aired in about 15 different short videos, uses everyone's favorite authority figure to deliver the message.

That message is designed to be both tongue-in-cheek, to grab people, and authoritative at the same time.

"It's a serious message we can all relate to, because we've all had to listen to our mothers," said Scott Berchtold, the team's vice president for communications.

"This is our house," added Tod Martin, president of the Martin Group, which developed both the concept and execution of the new campaign. "This is the fans' house. Who better in that household than the Mom figure to enforce those rules?"

The Bills say they've kept fine-tuning their enforcement measures in the last few years, including an earlier cutoff of beer sales, after halftime; heavier security details in the parking lots; patdowns of fans entering the stadium; and a turnaround policy that bars the most visibly intoxicated fans.

Brandon was asked whether all those tweaked policies don't obscure the true nub of the problem: all the drinking that goes on before and during the games.

His reply focused on the fine line the team walks, in making sure the fans have fun, while also ensuring that all the partying and the fan passion don't go too far.

"It's an important element of our game-day experience, and it's one that we celebrate," Brandon said. "But the hallmark of it is to celebrate it responsibly."

email: gwarner@buffnews.com

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Game Day changes

Tonight's Bills home preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars will be the first test for new traffic and parking regulations, including:

*A short stretch of Abbott Road just west of stadium will be closed to vehicles starting five hours before kickoff.
*Fans leaving stadium lots will be funneled into clearly defined lanes.
*Existing one-way restrictions on cars leaving stadium lots will be increased.
*Lots 2 and 3, west of Abbott Road, will have new "one-car, one-space" parking policy, on trial basis.