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Investing in Baseball: Rocky Mountain News Signs Five-Year, $7.5 to $8.5 Million Pact Providing It with Exclusive Radio/tv Rights to Colorado Rockies

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Investing in Baseball: Rocky Mountain News Signs Five-Year, $7.5 to $8.5 Million Pact Providing It with Exclusive Radio/tv Rights to Colorado Rockies

Article excerpt

9

While major-league baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent is realigning the National League, the Rocky Mountain News of Denver is doing some aligning of its own.

The News, under a five-year advertising rights agreement reached with the Colorado Rockies, has signed on as the team's official newspaper sponsor.

The Colorado Rockies, based in Denver, are one of two expansion baseball teams joining the National League in 1993. The other is the Florida Marlins based in Miami.

The agreement provides the News with exclusive television and radio rights to advertise during Rockies games, starting with spring training in 1993. Advertisements from competing newspapers, including the Denver Post, will be barred.

The deal, estimated at $7.5 million to $8.5 million, includes local airtime for 600 television and radio commercials. Each game will have three 30-second television and three 30second radio spots.

The paper will become the only newspaper with an advertising presence at Mile High Stadium and at Coors Field, which is due to open in 1995. It will also have the first right of refusal for all Rockies promotional, marketing, and sales opportunities that would involve a newspaper partner.

"It's a complete package. Not many teams hold the rights to all the radio, television, program ads, and left field fence, all of which the News now has," said Sue Fabschutz, director of marketing for the News.

The News' parent company, Scripps Howard, owns a 5% stake in the team. Other media companies, such as the Tribune Co., parent of the Chicago Tribune, also have stakes in local teams. The Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Cubs.

The Denver Post was also offered the same deal by the Rockies, minus the radio rights. According to a Rocky Mountain News' article, the Post turned down a $1.5 million-a-year deal and that the News will pay slightly more.

The News and the Post have an intense rivalry on all levels, editorial, advertising and promotion, according to Ken Calhoun, vice .president of marketing for the Post.

He said that while the News will not confirm it, he has been told the News is paying $1.75 million a year.

"I just think it is not a good business decision. They have way too much money involved for only a fraction of the audience. I have a pretty good idea what their media budget was last year, and that's 50% of it in the Rockies," Calhoun contended.

"Even if they own sports marketing in Denver, the deal leaves them with no flexibility to meet the changing market. As important as baseball is going to be, you need a solid marketing plan," Calhoun said.

Fabschutz believes the deal will allow the News to reach a large part of its audience.

"Denver has been waiting for major league [baseball] for at least 10 years," she said. She herself bought two of 24,000 season tickets that have already been sold for the starting season at Mile High Stadium.

"Denver is the West. It's image is outdoors. It is a very sports-oriented town," she said.

The Post has bought some company tickets, but Calhoun did not personally buy any.

"I don't live and breathe baseball. Maybe that is why I could step back and look at the deal from a purely business perspective," he said.

The San Francisco Chronicle, through its promotion manager Dean Church, is involved in about 10 sporting events a year, including professional and participatory. Church believes sports marketing can create a positive image for a newspaper.

All of Church's promotions involving the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants baseball teams and the Golden State Warriors basketball team are geared toward increasing single-copy sales and to build readership.

"The News' deal, to get involved at the .level they want to, is really pricey," said Church. He said he does not have signage in the stadiums because he "just won't pay it. …

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