SBJ/20090907/This Week's News

Rays start marketing operation

The Tampa Bay Rays have launched a subsidiary business unit, Sunburst Entertainment Group, designed to drive new business and revenue for the club.

Ideologically akin to Fenway Sports Group in Boston and outside marketing endeavors pursued by the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Cavaliers and others, the Rays’ new outfit will operate as a sports and entertainment consulting company, working in brand management, sales and sponsorship support, promotions, and event management.

“We see a lot of demand for these kinds of client services,” particularly with regard to community relations and collaboration, said Rays President Matt Silverman. “This puts our shingle out there and allows us to expand to a broader group of clientele.”

The Sunburst effort additionally builds on the club’s effort to repair and enlarge its relationship with the central Florida business community following the embattled tenure of previous club owner Vince Naimoli.

The Rays developed a successful postgame
concert series this summer.

Silverman will run the new operation in concert with senior team business executives Mark Fernandez, Rays senior vice president and chief sales officer; Michael Kalt, senior vice president for development and business affairs; and Brian Auld, senior vice president of business operations. No new staffers will be hired specifically for Sunburst at the outset.

The concept has generally proved successful in other markets where it’s been attempted, particularly in Boston, where FSG has grown into an industry power with a wide array of clients. FSG owns a 50 percent interest in prominent racing outfit Roush Fenway Racing as well as a Red Sox-affiliated minor league baseball team in Salem, Va. FSG is a sister company to the Red Sox and New England Sports Network.

The Rays made their own recent equity play before the announcement of Sunburst, buying an interest in the United Football League’s Florida Tuskers.

“[Merger and acquisition] is not a primary objective, but opportunities will be the byproduct of the conversations,” Silverman said.

Also high on the list of objectives: filling Tropicana Field with additional events. The Rays this summer developed a successful concert series following select games.

Alexis Muellner writes for the Tampa Bay Business Journal, an affiliated publication. SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.

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