SBJ/20100329/This Week's News

Party City expanding sports ties

Costume and party goods supplier Party City has signed a deal to be presenting sponsor of the Florida Panthers’ 2010-11 season and another with the New York Yankees for naming rights to seven group suites at Yankee Stadium.

Michael Yormark, president and chief operating officer of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, the Panthers’ owner and the operator of BankAtlantic Center, refused to disclose the value of the deal in South Florida, where Party City operates 30 of its 600 stores.

Rockaway, N.J.-based Party City is making a bigger splash into sports marketing after completing a test program with the Denver Broncos in October 2008 in which it sponsored a tailgate zone for 2,000 fans outside Invesco Field, as well as the club’s junior cheerleading squad and a haunted house to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Moving forward, Party City, an MLB licensee that does significant business with sports-themed kids’ birthday parties, sees an opportunity to reach women and mothers ages 25-54 by exposing its brand at arenas and stadiums, said Bill Furtkevic, the company’s vice president of marketing.

The Yankees use Party City favors for birthday
parties at Yankee Stadium.

“We still consider what we’re doing now pilot projects, but obviously on a much bigger scale,” Furtkevic said. “Sports is a huge category for us and a great way to build our brand.”

In Sunrise, Fla., the working tag line, “It’s a Party Every Night at the Panthers’ Game Presented by Party City,” ties into a full-blown campaign surrounding the traditional holidays. It kicks off with a celebration of Halloween inside the arena after the NHL season starts in early October.

Party City plans to open a temporary store and sell Halloween costumes at the arena’s team shop and activate similar themed promotions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and spring graduation to drive fans to the company’s retail sites, Yormark said

Customized messages on television, radio and the team’s Web site, and naming rights for party rooms at the team’s practice facility, are also part of the deal.

In turn, Party City store employees will wear Panthers garb at their stores to raise awareness of the team’s brand, Furtkevic said.

The deal starts at tonight’s Panthers game with Party City arena signs and media advertising for the team’s five remaining home games. Officials will then make plans for next season.

“We talked about their products and there are certain sales periods they really promote,” Yormark said. “The plan is to activate four to five marketing platforms around a cluster of home games.”

Some examples are Thanksgiving Feast Week, a three-game set, and Countdown to New Year’s, the last week in December, two stretches when the Panthers traditionally draw their biggest crowds for games against teams such as New York, Montreal, Toronto and Pittsburgh.

The deal came together after Yormark met Party City CEO Jerry Rittenberg through Zimmerman and Partners, Party City’s agency of record. The Panthers invited Rittenberg to a Feb. 5 game, and they flashed Party City’s logo on their center-hung scoreboard and LED strips, in addition to decorating a suite with Party City materials. Rittenberg expressed interest in doing a deal with the Panthers that evolved into buying the exclusive rights to next season, Yormark said.

At Yankee Stadium, the seven Party City Suites are along the first-base line on the H&R Block Suite Level. The company has a separate agreement with the Yankees to use those premium spaces to entertain clients, Furtkevic said. He would not disclose the value of that deal, and the Yankees declined to comment.

The Yankees will book birthday parties during games and also on days when the team isn’t playing, using Party City favors inside the suites, Furtkevic said.

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