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AT&?s runs in-venue sponsorship with Boston Celtics, Bruins

AT&T is sponsoring the TDBankNorth Arena, home of the NBA's Boston Celtics and the NHL's Boston Bruins and running in-venue ads at free handset-charging stations.

Technology firm Hercules Networks has been selected by AT&T to provide Automated Charging Machines, or ACMs, which are branded with AT&T's logo and color scheme. Consumers attending the Arena will be able to use the AT&T charging station to get a free 10-minute phone charge while watching the LCD screen that sits at eye level and plays AT&T's latest TV commercials.

"There's something to be said for providing a service for customers such as letting them charge phone for free, because it's something people remember," said Paul King, CEO of Hercules Networks, New York.

"AT&T is allowing every type of customer to charge their phone, even other carriers' customers, and while they're standing there you're watching AT&T's ads, and that rings a bell with them," he said.

"When a customer is deciding on a wireless plans, that could impact their decision to move to AT&T."

Hercules Networks has a line of ACMs that charge consumers' mobile phones while they are on the go.

A ten-minute charge gives advertisers a 10-minute captive audience.

Based on Hercules Networks case studies, the core demographic that interacts with ACMs is 18-35-year-olds crowd, especially those that use smartphones such as the iPhone and BlackBerry, because they tend to run out of battery power the fastest.

As of now AT&T is not selling the ACM inventory, rather it is just running its own ads. These are the same commercials that appear on TV.

This is the carrier's first ACM deployment.

"We're hoping there are going to be a lot more," Mr. King said. "People are stuck TDBankNorth Arena for a long period of time -- they could be there for four hours or so for a basketball or hockey game.

"AT&T has a marketing plan with the arena, and as part of the plan they're allowed to do promotions like this, so it ties in," he said.

In addition to sports venues, Hercules Networks believes that malls, theme parks, casinos and bars are ideals places to deploy ACMs.

"We see a lot of applications in malls, and a lot of malls have an AT&T store and a Verizon store, so if you have an AT&T-branded machine in the food court, it will probably drive traffic toward them and get a bigger piece of the customer base," Mr. King said.

"We are about to integrate Bluetooth messaging into all of the machines, because it's way of the future and a way to show instant ROI to clients," he said.