Advertiser Vary Strategies for '06 Gay Games A Record $13 Million in Corporate Sponsorship Kept Games out of the Red

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

Even those who oppose the Gay Games in Chicago this week acknowledge they have been a hit with area corporations.

The Gay Games racked up $13 million in sponsorships and donated goods and services, by far a record for the event.

"They would have been in the red like all the other games if it weren't for the sponsors," said Peter LaBarbera, executive director of Glen Ellyn-based Illinois Family Institute, a Christian-based nonprofit organization.

Yet the marketing strategies for each sponsor vary. Some strive for brand recognition and sales. Others want to stress their commitment to diversity in the workplace and the marketplace. Still others say their sponsorship reflects their corporate mission.

"We're a health care oriented retailer and the only thing that concerns us is health care," said Michael Polzin, spokesman for Deerfield-based Walgreen Co.

Also a sponsor of other gay- and lesbian-oriented events, Walgreen supplied the Gay Games with the "Walgreens' Wellness Bus" for HIV/AIDS education at game sites and with HIV/AIDS testing at the Chicago Hilton and Towers.

With the Gay Games ending today, LaBarbera said the games have been a "flop" because of low attendance and some companies, such as Walgreen, will suffer a backlash.

"We have had people tell us that and we're sorry to hear it," Polzin said.

Corporate sponsors with local ties included Aon, CNA Financial, Exelon, Harris Bank, Kraft Foods, Motorola and White Hen. Even Quaker Oats, with its male logo in traditional Quaker attire, is a sponsor. …