SBJ/February 26 - March 4, 2007/This Weeks News

USA Hockey ‘raising the bar’ with Qwest deal

Funding usually peaks for national governing bodies during Olympic years and dips during the years in between, but USA Hockey has found a way to beat that trend.

The new hockey deal is not Qwest’s first
sponsorship with an NGB.

The national governing body has completed a multiyear deal with Qwest Communications International, the Denver-based telecom with a $15.5 billion market cap. The finances of the deal were not available at press time, but most USA Hockey deals are in the low- to mid-six-figure range.

The deal is the largest nonendemic deal in the organization’s history, said  marketing director Lee Meyer, and it pushes USA Hockey’s sponsorship revenue 5 percent above where it was in 2006, when the Olympics were held in Turin, Italy, and 35 percent above 2005, the last non-Olympic year.

“That’s raising the bar for USA Hockey,” Meyer said. “My hope is it builds a whole new basis for us to operate.”

Qwest will become the official communication partner for USA Hockey and the official sponsor of the U.S. women’s national team, a position formerly held by Wal-Mart.

Unlike the men’s national team, which plays in two major events, the World Championships and the Olympics, the women’s team plays 11 to 18 domestic games annually. Qwest will be entitled to event signs, tickets and athlete rights with the team.

USA Hockey also will help the telecommunications provider network with local and state-level organizations to sponsor events such as the Minnesota state hockey championships.

Qwest has partnered with other NGBs in the past. It recently sponsored the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships and was a sponsor of U.S. Speedskating until that contract expired last year.

USA Hockey began working on the deal with Qwest in January 2006, Meyer said. The company was looking for ways to be involved with athletes at the grassroots level, he added, and with more than 520,000 members, USA Hockey was a good fit.

Qwest was not available for comment at press time.

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