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Sports, Inc.


Whether it's amateur or professional sports, many Indiana companies are putting their advertising dollars into promoting sporting events. Unfortunately, no research has been conducted yet that addresses the economic impact of corporate sponsorship, says Sandy Knapp, president of the Indiana Sports Corporation. "But everyone would like to see such an evaluation," she adds. "We don't have a model out there to use, but what we do know is that it's been significant and positive."

Take, for example, the 1991 Professional Golfers' Association Championship that's set for August 1991 at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel. Projected gross revenues from the tournament are in the $6 million to $10 million range but, points out Bob Olsen, co-chairman of the event's marketing committee, "compared to the impact on the community, that's nothing. The dollars spectators will spend staying in motels and dining out will mean a great deal more."

In central Indiana, corporate support has grown steadily during the past several years, says Knapp. "Corporate sponsorship of professional sports has been going on for decades at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," she notes, "but corporate support for amateur sports has evolved just in the last 10 years." Even organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Indiana High School Athletic Association, which traditionally haven't been a part of such activity, now are venturing into the sponsorship arena, she says.

Including big events such as the Olympic Trials and the 10th Pan American Games, Indianapolis has played host to more than 200 amateur sporting events since 1980. The Indiana Sports Corporation is the entity that handles everything for these events from matchmaking and consulting to soliciting sponsorships and servicing accounts. "The most rewarding part is that many of the companies we do business with are repeat customers," says Knapp. "Our ability to develop continuity has produced beneficial partnerships."

The downside to the sponsorship marketplace in Indiana, Knapp points out, is that it's not as large as it could be. Indianapolis doesn't have the number of Fortune 500 companies that many major metropolitan areas have. That makes Indiana a challenge. "We're often not on the cutting edge of this concept, so Indiana is just catching up in sponsorship," she says.

And, indeed, central Indiana is catching up.

In 1987, Westfield-based GTE North became involved as a sponsor, along with Eli Lilly and Company and Banc One Indiana, of the then-U.S. Clay Court Championships. In 1988, the clay courts at the Indianapolis Sports Center, where the tournament is played, were converted to hardcourts, and GTE was given the opportunity to become the title sponsor.

"Our judgment at that time was correct," says Clare Coxey, GTE vice president of public affairs. "The improved surface has meant an improved field," he explains. "We're getting better, more recognized players and the whole tournament has a new look." The event was named Tournament of the Year by the players in 1988. The GTE/U.S. Men's Hardcourt Championships is one of only seven tournaments on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) North American Championships tour.

"With commitments for the 1990 Championships from Becker, Agase, McEnroe, Crickstein and Berger, five of the top 10 in the world, you're just not going to see better tennis," comments the Sports Corporation's Knapp.

Although he declines to discuss GTE's monetary investment in the Tennis Championships, Coxey says the advertising value the company derives from media coverage and product endorsements far exceeds the value of what it spends. GTE also uses the tournament to its advantage as a way to entertain its customers.

As with many sporting events in Indianapolis, the GTE Championships relies heavily on volunteer support. Approximately 150 GTE staff members donate their time to working on the tournament. Key GTE personnel, along with the tournament board and the Indiana Sports Corporation, currently are preparing for this August's event. "It's very important to have good people to work with," notes Coxey. "Community-based management groups like the Sports Corporation and our tournament board are key to the success of the event."

The PGA Championship is one of golf's four "Grand Slam" events, in company with the Masters Tournament and the British Open and the U.S. Open championships. Tournament officials are structuring sponsorship to allow both big and small companies to get involved, says Olsen.

For a sponsorship fee of $15,000, a company receives, among other things, a table inside a "sponsor" tent, an outing for four at Crooked Stick and 10 full-week passes. A $120,000 investment entitles a company to entertain 100 people a day in a private tent. In addition to full-week passes, valet parking and other perks, these sponsors also qualify for a golf outing for 40 at Crooked Stick.

As of the end of February, Olsen had received $120,000 commitments from 13 local companies, leaving room for seven more of the 20 needed to meet budget. "We are hoping for a sellout of the event before the end of `90," Olsen says.

Another central Indiana event, the Larry Bird Pro All-Star Scholarship Classic, was the brainchild of Indianapolis civic leader James T. Morris and the Indiana Sports Corporation's Knapp. They met with Bird and asked him to consider hosting an all-star game as part of the Youth Links Weekend. The Links Weekend is a golf tournament held as a fund-raiser for disadvantaged Hoosier youths and Indiana athletes struggling for Olympic status. Bird pledged his support and the first game, held in 1988, helped 92 kids.

This year's game is set for June 24. Corporate sponsors include Conseco, Inc., of Carmel, Hardee's restaurants and Indianapolis-domiciled Merchants National Corporation.

So much for the pros. What about the amateurs?

The White River Park State Games, for example, is the largest multisport event in Indiana's history, boasts Brian Kimball, vice president of the Indiana Sports Corporation and executive director of the games. What began in 1983 with just 10 sports and 5,000 athletes, has grown to 21 sports and more than 22,000 athletes from all 92 counties. These amateur athletes range in age from 4 to 84. Last year, 65,000 tickets were sold to games events.

The games' budget has increased from $300,000 to the current figure of $750,000, due in large part to corporate sponsorship. In 1990, corporate sponsorship will reach about $320,000 and Kimball expects the overall budget to reach $1 million by 1992.

During the competition's first year, Hook Drugs, Inc., was the only company involved. In 1990, 15 companies will participate at various levels. The event's primary sponsors are Hook's, Taco Bell restaurants and Marsh Supermarkets, Inc. For an $80,000 commitment, each primary sponsor is part of an entire advertising, publicity and ticket-marketing campaign. "They're included in everything that goes out of our office," says Kimball.

"Our sponsors are a great fit because of their many locations throughout the state. Plus, Hook's and Marsh are homegrown Indiana companies," notes Kimball.

According to Mary Ann Pahud, director of corporate affairs for Marsh Supermarkets, the White River Park State Games gives Marsh an opportunity in its market area. "The games impact our corporate image in all of the communities we serve and provide an opportunity for us to give back to those communities through our support of the games. The benefits are immeasurable. This is a wholesome, family-oriented event and appeals to such a broad base of participation.

"We're not in this to drive store traffic or sell products," she maintains. "We're in it for image. We know what we want and promote our own involvement. We want to help make the games a success."

Regional competition is set for June 29-30 at sites in Fort Wayne, Elkhart, Logansport, Anderson, Richmond, Terre Haute, Evansville and Columbus. The 1990 White River Park State Games finals are July 13-15 at 27 venues throughout Indianapolis.

Kimball points out that the games have an economic impact of almost $1 million at each regional site. Beginning this summer, cities interested in hosting a regional event will bid for the 1991 and 1992 competitions. Bidding criteria include a review of available facilities in each city, sports personnel and volunteers, local government support and operational support, such as data processing and medical services. The economic impact of the finals on Indianapolis is estimated at about $8 million.

The Sports Corporation's Knapp feels the success of sporting events in Indiana can be attributed to the human spirit and support from elected officials as well as generous corporate support. "Indiana has been ahead of the learning curve," she says. "We have delegations coming from all over the country to study Indianapolis. They want to understand how we're doing it and why we're so successful."

Cities in New York, Florida and California are looking to see what Indianapolis has done in the sports area, says Knapp. "Essentially, we've created our own competition, which is great. But it means we'll have to work harder to compile our resources and stay competitive."

PHOTO : "Indiana has been ahead of the learning curve": Sandy Knapp, president of the Indiana Sports Corporation.

PHOTO : GTE North is title sponsor of the U.S. Men's Hardcourt Championships. The 1990 tournament will have five of the world's top 10 players.
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Title Annotation:Regional Report; Indiana Sports Corporation
Author:McMahon, Alicia Cox
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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