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A winning match: businesses that sponsor sports teams and associations benefit themselves and the community.

"In biblical times, it might have been known as "you reap what you sow."

Sponsoring or advertising at local sporting events or with teams and associations is just one way businesses can help make their own companies successful and get something in return for those dollars they spend.

"I'm a sports enthusiast," says Able Body Shop Owner Ryan Cropper. "Naturally, I am going to advertise in a sporting venue. We get tremendous feedback from our customers who appreciate the fact that we support sports teams."

Of course, that type of advertising is somewhat of a gamble.

"People tend to rally around winning teams. If we do advertising for a team that was performing poorly, then surely attendance would drop and fewer people would see our efforts, Cropper said. "It does have a domino effect."

Among the local sports teams that Able Body Shop sponsors is the Alaska Aces Hockey Club, a semi-professional team, based in Anchorage, which is a member of the East Coast Hockey League. (Ed. Note: at press time, the Aces were atop the West Division standings of the National Conference and had the best record in the entire ECHL league).

Able Body Shop has signage along the boards at the Sullivan Arena, where the Aces play their home games.

"And we have signs close to the penalty boxes, too," said Cropper. "That's a focal point of the scene."

GIVING BACK

Not all sports advertising is seen as trying to get the most out the almighty dollar. Besides trying to drum up business for your company, there are other reasons for advertising.

"I feel it's a way to give back to the community, which gives back to you," said Cropper, who has been a sponsor of the Aces for the past three years.

The automotive repair business also supports the North Star Pee Wees (youth hockey), Boys and Girls Club soccer teams and women's hockey teams.

"I like to change around the advertising dollars," said Cropper. "We probably spend between $30,000 to 40,000 a year on sponsoring local sporting teams. It's a way of helping out in the community. That's the nice part about doing this."

Jinnie Nims, marketing officer for Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union, echoed many of the same thoughts as Cropper.

"We hope by advertising for sports teams it fosters good will and a relationship will develop between us and the players, families and the community," said Nims.

"We haven't done any scientific surveys to see how much our advertising has impacted those teams that we sponsor, but we have had good feedback."

Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union also supports and sponsors the Aces. It too spreads out its advertising dollars to other local teams.

"We don't have a long history of using our money for sports sponsorships, but we are beginning to establish ourselves," Nims said.

IN PUBLIC EYE

An advantage of sponsorship is that the sponsor's name will be brought to the attention of the public. An event may be named after the sponsor, or the company's name will be prominently displayed on advertising boards or on the shirts of the players. The sponsor's name will be seen on TV and the newspapers, and will be heard on radio and in everyday conversation.

"We have supported the Anchorage Bucs and the Glacier Pilots (two of the summer baseball teams formed by collegiate players, who play in the Alaska Baseball League throughout the state). "I doubt if they would have poor seasons, if that would weigh in our decision to advertise or not.

"Our advertising philosophy is not based on the overall record of a team," said Nims. "We want to stay involved in the community."

It is good for the sponsor's image to be linked with a popular, healthy pastime like sports. It also doesn't hurt to be associated with success.

"We have advertising on the reader board at the arena for the Aces games and on the radio, we have one-liners that are aired. We do sponsor an Aces player, so our name is on the back of his jersey."

Nims says their sports advertising budget is not on a grand scale, by major sports standards, but a modest figure and one that they are proud of.

We spend close to $25,000 annually on sports teams. We try to spread that around throughout the community."

Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union also helps ASBN Radio (Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network (The Zone), a radio station that broadcasts many sporting events, including The Great Alaska Shootout basketball tournament over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The not-for-profit financial member-owned cooperative also supports the University Of Alaska Anchorage "Green and Gold Friday" promotional program. The program offers discounts to patrons at local businesses who wear the school's colors (green and gold) on Fridays from participating companies.

Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union also sponsors high school basketball programs.

If a team is sponsored, it may attract more or better players, thus raising the quality of the team. If an event is sponsored, it will be better organized and may be able to allow teams/players to take part. Sponsorship often means a team or athlete can receive high-quality coaching. In some cases, sponsorship has allowed athletes to give up full-time work and concentrate on their sport.

The Best Get More

Companies who put money into sponsorship are able to reduce their tax bill.

Not always, but often, being sponsored gives a team status. If a company is prepared to give money to a team, then people will tend to think the team must be a very good one. It's likely that the more well-known the sponsor, then the higher the status of that team.

Tim Faggionato, a physician's assistant and the marketing chairman for the Anchorage Fracture & Orthopedic Clinic, has a different approach for why his company has become involved in sponsoring or supporting teams and events.

"Is it our hope that at every sporting event that two or three players or participants will have accidents and wind up with broken arms or legs and then suddenly remember that somewhere they saw our advertising and want to come to us because of their misfortune ... Absolutely, not!!!," said Faggionato.

"We do want to promote our image and more. We are about more than just repairing broken bones. We are also about sports medicine, spine surgery, hip and knee replacements. And we like taking care of athletes, too,"

he continued. "We are not ambulance chasers."

AFOC also sponsors the Aces hockey team and is a premier sponsor for the Alyeska Ski Cup Race in Girdwood, as well as the annual Sadler's Ultra Challenge, a grueling week-long bicycle race from Fairbanks to Anchorage for disadvantaged adults.

"One of our physical therapists (Gregg Zaporzan) skated for the Aces," recalls Faggionato.

Among the sporting events that AFOC supports are the many running events for men and women. "We, too, like to be a part of the community.

"We were big supporters of the Anchorage Heart Run for many years. Many of our orthopedic doctors either participate in these running events themselves or they can identify somehow with it. Also, some of our doctors skate on teams that we support. AFOC was a sponsor of the Cape Epic Mountain Bike Race. That was in South Africa."

One unique marketing plan that AFOC has established is that each company employee is allocated a $100 voucher to be spent as he or she desires, but is strictly limited to advertising.

"It takes the pressure off of them and the feeling that they must contribute to a team or event," Faggionato said.

Faggionato says AFOC spends in the neighborhood of $30,000 each year on sports advertising.

In addition, AFOC sponsorships include Alaska Quakes, a youth baseball team, Dimond and Chugiak High School sports programs, Boys and Girls Club hockey teams, East High School Lady T-Bird basketball team and Pee Wee Youth Hockey.

"We were also proud to sponsor Alaska's Kikkan Randall, who skied in this year's Winter Olympics in Italy," Faggionato said.

Jack Powers, 14-year owner of the Tudor Road Bingo Center Casino, agrees that advertising for sports teams is a way of giving back to the community.

Powers has 40-foot billboards braced up against the inside fences at Mulcahy Stadium, home of the Bucs and Glacier Pilots. In addition, Tudor Bingo has ads in the baseball souvenir program books.

"You can't miss 'em, (the billboards)," laughed Powers, who advertises with both of the Anchorage baseball teams.

"I really enjoy going to the ballpark and seeing many of my bingo patrons enjoying a summer's game. I think I spend around $6,000 a year advertising. I split it equally between the Bucs and Pilots."

MOST FOR MONEY

Although the Bucs and Glacier Pilots only play during the summer, Powers feels that he gets the most out of his advertising.

"When the Bucs and Pilots aren't at home, Mulcahy is host to American Legion tournaments and there's the Fourth of July fireworks display and other events besides Bucs and Pilots games that take place there, that people will see those signs."

Alaska state laws, regulations and statutes prevent Powers and others in the bingo and gaming industry from advertising freely.

"We are limited to what and where we can place our advertising," said Powers.

"It's a changing world with bingo. No longer is it thought of just as a place for little old gray-haired widows to go to spend their time. Technology has changed all that. There are more college students playing now."

Sometimes a sponsor can feel they have not received enough publicity for the amount of money they have given. There are many ways a business can publicize itself, and doing it through sports is fairly risky. If a team or event is a massive success and attracts media attention, then the sponsor has had good value. If the team was a failure with little or no media coverage, then the sponsor may feel it had poor value for the money.

"Would I pull back on my advertising, if the teams were performing poorly? Probably, said Powers, "but my heart says one thing and my wallet says another. That's a tough question."

Many sports teams can become too dependent on sponsorships. If one sponsor pulls out, it sometimes triggers others to follow suit and drop theirs.

Another downside may be that when there is an agreement between a large sporting body and a sponsor, the sports players have to wear or use the sponsor's equipment whether the players, as individuals, approve of the sponsor or not. There is often no consultation of the people who have to wear that sponsor's company name.

Most teams are very proud and happy when they win a competition or achieve a certain standard in a sport or activity; many sponsors now help sports by encouraging the young and other people who want improve their skills.

It's also about businesses working hand-in-glove with sports teams, players and the community to make it a better place.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Grenn, Ben
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:1836
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