SBJ/October 10-16, 2011/Colleges

VFW aims to raise money through Missouri Valley sponsorship

The VFW’s fundraising arm, which struck sponsorship deals in NASCAR and the NFL in recent years, is moving deeper into sports marketing with a unique new partnership in the Missouri Valley Conference.

In an effort to raise more money for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, its foundation will work with the MVC for the next three college basketball seasons on a program called “Charity Stripe.” The conference and its 10 schools throughout the Midwest will encourage fans and corporate partners to give money based on the number of free throws made during the conference season. Portions of the MVC’s official website, mvcsports.com, will be dedicated to the Charity Stripe program.

The three-year sponsorship will cost the VFW Foundation $165,000 annually. Based on a typical season in which about 2,600 free throws are made in conference play, the VFW would need about $63.50 per free throw to make its money back.

The conference’s other partners, such as State Farm, Emerson Electric Co., Casey’s General Store and others, are expected to participate along with fans.

The VFW will receive ad time on MVC TV broadcasts, in-arena signage and other assets to run its public-service messages and promote its overarching “Return the Favor” fundraising platform. On campus, MVC schools will honor Veterans Day with a “military appreciation” game on or around Nov. 11 near the start of the season.

MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin will present the VFW Foundation with a check at the basketball tournament in March.

“When people think of the VFW, most think of their local post and its members, and that’s a big part of it,” said Dustin Kuhn, the VFW Foundation’s manager of corporate relations. “But there’s a lot of charitable work done for active military and their families — welcome homes, send-offs — that a lot of people aren’t aware of. We see this as an important way for us to spread our message and build awareness for what we’re doing.”

The VFW moved into sports marketing three years ago with title sponsorship of the NASCAR VFW 200 race at Michigan International Speedway in the Camping World Truck Series. It subsequently has added a partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs in the city where the VFW Foundation is headquartered. The new arrangement with the MVC is another step in growing awareness in the Midwest.

“We were really encouraged by our results in NASCAR and the NFL,” Kuhn said. “We’ve really tried to take the best elements of those programs and bring them together into this one.”

The VFW Foundation deal was sold by Learfield Sports, which manages MVC Sports Properties. Branden Miller, who leads sales efforts as general manager, has been with MVC Sports Properties since Learfield won the business about 18 months ago. The MVC previously handled its sales and marketing in-house.

Learfield also has sold title sponsorship of the men’s and women’s Player of the Year awards to Emerson, a company that provides parts for air conditioners, appliances and heavy machinery. Caterpillar is one of Emerson’s largest clients.

Emerson has been a corporate partner with the MVC for close to 20 years, but this most recent deal marks the first time the conference has sold title sponsorship to its two biggest trophies.

Bob Cox, Emerson’s senior vice president of administration, said sponsoring the Larry Bird and Jackie Stiles awards for Player of the Year combined the company’s involvement in education with its long-standing support of the conference basketball tournament in St. Louis, where Emerson is headquartered. Emerson also sponsors post-graduate scholarships for MVC student athletes and recruits heavily for engineering students from MVC schools, Cox said.
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