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Central Pennsylvania companies discover benefit in sports partnerships

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In Lancaster, Clipper Magazine recently renewed for another five years its naming rights to Clipper Magazine Stadium. Photo/Submitted
In Lancaster, Clipper Magazine recently renewed for another five years its naming rights to Clipper Magazine Stadium. Photo/Submitted

Lincoln Financial Field. Heinz Field. Citizens Bank Park.

People always know where their favorite sports teams play, and the names alone can evoke strong emotional connections.

The same dynamic is at work at Metro Bank Park, Clipper Magazine Stadium, Sovereign Bank Stadium and at high school stadiums all across the midstate, brand experts said.

“We put the name of the stadium on everything we do,” said Eric Menzer, general manager of the York Revolution, the baseball team that plays in Sovereign Bank Stadium.

For companies, that translates into brand promotion.

Sovereign Bank benefits not only from the sheer number of impressions — instances of people seeing the name — but also from the role the York Revolution plays locally, Menzer said.

“We are a very tangible thing that has now come to be at the center of this community’s life,” he said.

York won back-to-back Atlantic League championships in 2010 and 2011. Attendance at Sovereign Bank Stadium rose 5 percent in 2012 and totals 1.6 million over the Revolution’s six seasons, according to team records.

Metro Bank values its partnership with the Harrisburg Senators at Metro Bank Park, said bank Chairman, President and CEO Gary Nalbandian.

“It is an opportunity to support a great organization in our local community while enhancing the Metro Bank brand,” Nalbandian said.

In Lancaster, Clipper Magazine recently renewed for another five years its naming rights to Clipper Magazine Stadium, home of the Barnstormers baseball team.

For Clipper Magazine, it was an easy decision, said CEO Steve Zuckerman.

Hundreds of thousands of people see games there each year, he said, ranging from consumers who clip Clipper Magazine’s coupons to business owners who take out ads in it.

“You really don’t see anyone leaving that stadium without a smile on their face,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer, wanting to be associated with that.”

The stadium opened nine years ago, club President Lisa Riggs said. The stadium’s skyboxes were marketed on 10-year contracts, which means the Barnstormers will soon begin looking for renewals, she said.

Clipper’s renewal is “the first big piece of that,” she said, because the stadium’s name “is such a critical piece of who we are.”

At the high school level, the community connection available through sports branding can be, if anything, even stronger, said Jeff Bertoni.

Bertoni runs Market Street Sports Group in Lancaster with his friend and colleague, Jason Jesberger. Bertoni is president of sales; Jesberger is president of marketing. Bertoni also does on-field promotion for the Barnstormers, though Market Street Sports Group does not do any work for the team.

Bertoni and Jesberger work with school districts and companies on sponsorship, advertising and naming-rights deals. Arrangements can include banners, fixed signage, T-shirts, product promotions and so forth, depending on the organization’s interests and needs.

With high schools, revenues from marketing go directly to student activities and academic programs, Bertoni said. In today’s environment of tight education budgets, parents recognize the benefit that companies’ advertising dollars bring, he said.

Local companies based within a school district have an especially good opportunity to create a bond, he said. The key, he said, is strategies that “allow partnership to resonate beyond the sign.” A dry cleaner might give a school district’s staff a discount, he said, or a beverage distributor might offer drinks to the district’s sports teams after their workouts.

Market Street Sports Group makes sponsor relationships exclusive – it’s effective to have one local bank as a sponsor, whereas having three would dilute the message, he said.

Besides its work with individual school districts, Market Street Sports Group handles marketing for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. It also recently took on the Harrisburg City Islanders hockey team as a client and plans a number of promotions when the season begins in April.

Marketing dollars remain tight, Bertoni said. Opportunities for branding that might have gone to a single sponsor five years ago now might be divided among two or three, with one company naming the press box, another the scoreboard and a third the refreshment stand, he said.

High school sports marketing has become widely accepted, he said: “We haven’t had any backlash.”

At the professional level, teams realize how important a good image is for their sponsors, Menzer said.

“We work hard to maintain the brand,” he said.

Because it reflects on everyone associated with it, it needs to reflect the organization’s core values, he said.

The York Revolution’s values, according to Menzer?

“Professionalism, community, fun and family.”

"Professionalism, community, fun and family."

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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