SBJ/June 1 - 7, 1998/No Topic Name

Merger creates sponsorship Goliath

The level of sports sponsorships at Ameritech Inc. could be drastically altered once the dust settles from its pending $62 billion merger with Texas-based telecommunications giant SBC Communications Corp.

Chicago-based Ameritech is already a major regional player in various sports sponsorships, including the Ameritech PGA Senior Open and major signage deals in Chicago's Comsikey Park, Jacobs Field in Cleveland and other venues throughout the Midwest.

If SBC Corp. follows form in Chicago, there could be more deals given the company's propensity to aggressively pursue sports-marketing opportunities and to spend big.

SBC officials won't disclose how much the company spends on sponsorships, but it picked up the naming-rights contract to Pacific Bell Park — under construction in San Francisco — when it bought the West Coast phone company. SBC sponsors the Pacific Bell PGA senior tournament in Los Angeles and is the title sponsor of the Southwestern Bell Cotton Bowl. The company also owns a 10 percent stake in the San Antonio Spurs and has numerous regional signage and broadcast sponsorship deals in various markets.

"We don't divulge how much we spend on sports sponsorships, but the number is going up," SBC spokesman Dave Senay said. "Our track record is pretty strong."

Could that mean a slew of new Ameritech sponsorships as the company enters the Midwestern market once the merger is completed?

"We are becoming more active as the market becomes more competitive," Senay said. "We're spending more money [on sponsorships] as we get bigger."

Officials at Ameritech, which this year pulled its sponsorship from Chicago's WTA circuit stop, said that while they will continue to sponsor professional sporting events, they are planning to boost their involvement to include more amateur events. The company has added the U.S. speed skating team to its sponsorship portfolio and is targeting other amateur sporting events to pinpoint customers at a lower cost.

"We are looking outside the realm of professional sports," said Brian Fitzgerald, Ameritech's director of external affairs. "Though professional sports is the way to go, we are looking more closely at changing the mix of professional and amateur sports."

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