Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sponsorship of Events Gains Firms Find Global, Grass-Roots Opportunities. CORPORATE MARKETING

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sponsorship of Events Gains Firms Find Global, Grass-Roots Opportunities. CORPORATE MARKETING

Article excerpt

STEVE Ehrhart, commissioner of the new World Basketball League (WBL), is riding the crest of basketball's swelling international popularity.

The United States "whipped the champions of the Soviet Union, Italy and Australia," says Mr. Ehrhart, whose Memphis-based league is in its third season. "Fans love it."

Along with his players, Mr. Ehrhart is doing his own share of hustling and fast-breaking these days in rounding up corporate sponsors, who put their logos and commercial messages on team jerseys and arena floors.

At one recent game against a Soviet team, the Memphis Rockers sported the Fuji Film name on their jerseys. Other companies, such as Coca-Cola Company, Levi Strauss & Company, and Philips Lighting Company are involved in sponsorship packages with the WBL as a means to market their products worldwide.

The medium of special events marketing is expanding, not only geographically but also into more activities - from arm wrestling to charities.

By most industry reckonings, more than 3,500 companies are spending annually from $2 billion to $3 billion on sponsorships and support activities. Growth has averaged 30 to 40 percent for most of the past decade.

In professional team sports, and to a growing degree in music and art sponsorships, the trend is global, driven by increased opportunities from television abroad and the thrust toward an economically united Europe.

"No question about it. The globalization of communications will be followed very shortly by the globalization of marketing programs. The timing is perfect," says Bud Stanner, senior vice-president of Cleveland-based International Management Group, a sports marketing agency.

Already, the 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain is attracting scores of corporate sponsors, many of them multinationals like Japan's Fujitsu Ltd. They are expected to pump an estimated $7.9 billion into the Spanish economy.

Foreign companies, in fact, are becoming adept at sponsoring special events. In Europe, the Spanish food giant Nupextra and the greeting card company Pannini have signed sponsorship deals with the National Basketball Association. …

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