SBJ/Feb. 14-20, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Amazin': Mets still signing deals despite their troubles

The embattled New York Mets have signed seven sponsorship deals in recent weeks and are pacing ahead of 2010 in ticket sales for the coming season, marking key pieces of business still happening despite the club’s mounting financial and legal problems.

The Mets since mid-January have signed sponsorship renewals with Rums of Puerto Rico, Chevrolet, McDonald’s, Fox News Channel, Hankook Tires and Subway, and a new deal with A-1 Moving, club officials said. Financial terms were not disclosed but Dave Howard, Mets executive vice president for business operations, branded the pacts collectively as significant.

Season-ticket renewals, meanwhile, are more than twice 2010’s level on a percentage basis, Howard said, despite a second consecutive losing season in 2010. Specific figures were not released, but the club is holding out hope it will surpass last year’s total attendance mark of 2.56 million.

“We’ll need to see. Team performance is obviously the key factor when you have inventory to sell, and we have inventory to sell,” Howard said. “But the signs in the marketplace are very encouraging. Our new pricing strategy and the hires of [general manager] Sandy Alderson and [manager] Terry Collins have all been well-received.”

The Mets in November slashed ticket prices by an average of 14 percent for the 2011 season, with season-ticket holders receiving an additional 10 percent price break. The club additionally created a rewards program for season-ticket holders making them eligible for a variety of experiential prizes.

Since then, club owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz and their business entity, Sterling Equities, have been sued by Irving Picard, a trustee representing victims in the Bernie Madoff-led financial scandal. Picard is seeking in excess of $300 million from Sterling Equities, and perhaps as much as $1 billion, alleging they should have seen warning signs of Madoff’s malfeasance and stopped the Ponzi scheme. Picard additionally claims the Sterling partners were routinely using money from Madoff investments to fund Mets operations.

Because of that continuing legal battle, and what they described as the “uncertainty” it has created, the Wilpons and Katz last month announced they are seeking minority partners to buy up to 25 percent of the Mets. That step veered sharply from repeated vows from club officials following Madoff’s 2008 arrest that an equity sale would not be necessary.

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