SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/This Weeks Issue

Yankee sponsors using team to boost business

The New York Yankees have increased their sponsorship and stadium advertising revenue by more than 10 percent this season, but the ramped-up support is most evident outside the House That Ruth Built, where sponsors are using the Yankees as a marketing platform like never before.

McDonald's Corp., Verizon Wireless, the Coca-Cola Co. and Fleet Bank head a long list of sponsors using their Yankees rights to build retail promotions and sales-driving initiatives.

In a market where sports marketing generally means only a media buy, and few corporations have publicly attached themselves to the local teams beyond the purchase of signs, tickets and occasionally putting a team logo on the back of a truck, Yankees sponsors are embracing the idea of using the team to sell products.

It may sound elementary, but in this respect, New York is just starting to catch up to the rest of the country, and the Yankees are adjusting how they sell sponsorships accordingly.

"We have found that selling signage and a certain number of impressions in the outfield is the practice of yesteryear," said John Krimsky, president of YankeeNets Properties. "The impact sponsors want to make is so different than it has been in the past that we are really rewriting our sponsorship manuals, not only for baseball but for all our teams."

YankeeNets Properties also markets the New Jersey Nets and Devils and has marketing agreements with the New York Giants and soccer's Manchester United.

The Yankees list a whopping 48 sponsors, with deals ranging from as low as $150,000 to more than $5 million. But even letting the smallest advertisers call themselves sponsors has not kept the Yankees from commanding major dollars in robust categories. Ten sponsors spend $1 million or more with the team, Yankees officials said. Many of those companies will spend hundreds of thousands of additional dollars on related marketing programs.

Fleet Bank is featuring Derek Jeter, wearing his Yankee pinstripes, in an outdoor and television ad campaign.

McDonald's, which became a team sponsor this season, is planning a four- to six-week instant-win promotion at 650 area restaurants, offering 15,000 prizes ranging from Yankees tickets and merchandise to spring training vacations and chances to meet Yankees legends. The program will be backed by a major television and radio push, print and transit ads along with point-of-sale materials that include 40-foot store banners. Rival Burger King ran a trading card giveaway with the Yankees last season, but the McDonald's program represents the kind of support and exposure that even the world champion Yankees have never received from sponsors.

Coca-Cola has no advertising in the outfield or the stands at Yankee Stadium but buys tens of thousands of tickets a year to use for promotion and community outreach purchases. The activity stretches from suburbia, where it runs a special Yankees sweepstakes through a supermarket chain, to New York's inner-city neighborhoods. About a dozen times a season, Coca-Cola invites 1,000 community leaders from a particular neighborhood to a night out at the stadium. It also runs a contest through 2,000 "bodegas," small, privately owned grocery stores that dot New York City, giving away a four-pack of Yankees tickets and Coca-Cola products in each store.

When the Yankees win the World Series, as they have four of the last five seasons, Coca-Cola unleashes about 3 million commemorative cans within two days.

"We see the Yankees as a valuable business asset to help build the brand," said Mike Oringer, the vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola North America's New York division.

Verizon Wireless, which now has the largest outfield billboard in Yankee Stadium after taking that spot over from Hitachi, tested a program last month in which it gave a free pair of Yankee tickets with all new accounts during a three-day period. It also sent discount offers to 1.8 million customers along with their bills.

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