SBJ/July 1-7, 2013/Franchises

Blue Cross to sponsor Bobcats training camp

The Charlotte Bobcats have signed Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina as title sponsor for the team’s training camp. The multiyear sponsorship is part of a larger renewal signed by the company with the team.

BCBS has been a team sponsor for the past two years.

For the second consecutive season, Bobcats training camp this year will be at UNC Asheville, continuing the club’s effort to develop as a regional brand. The team trained on the other side of the state, in Wilmington, N.C., hometown of team owner Michael Jordan, from 2005-08 and again in 2010.

According to NBA officials, while not all team training camp information for 2013 has been finalized, few, if any, teams besides the Bobcats are expected to hold their camps outside their home markets, though teams do routinely play preseason games in neutral markets.

NBA officials also said training camp sponsorship deals, such as the Bobcats’ agreement, were rare among teams across the league.

“As we looked at the business and potential growth, Wilmington was a little outside of our season-ticket base,” said Bobcats President Fred Whitfield. “Asheville is a market our TV rights have expanded into, and it is an easy, two-hour drive to Charlotte. Blue Cross also has a huge presence in Asheville.”

BCBS will have branding at UNC-Asheville’s Kimmel Arena, where the team will train on campus. The company plans to use training camp for hospitality and community events. It also will be the title sponsor for two Bobcats preseason games this year: one in Asheville, and one in Greensboro, N.C.

“It allows us to extend our footprint even further in Asheville, which is a key market for us, and with the transition of the team name to the Charlotte Hornets [for the 2014-15 season], we feel it is a great opportunity,” said Reagan Pruitt, director of brand marketing and management for BCBS of North Carolina. “We will be sure that fans are aware that we are the exclusive health care insurance provider of the Bobcats.”

The Bobcats also count Novant Health as a sponsor, serving as the team’s official health care provider. That deal includes sponsorship of the team’s practice facility at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.

Having training camp outside the team’s home market is nothing new for Bobcats Chief Marketing Officer Pete Guelli. Prior to joining the Bobcats in 2009, Guelli worked for the Buffalo Bills, where he led the effort to move that team’s preseason camp to Rochester, N.Y., and signed Verizon Wireless to a training camp title sponsorship.

“That turned into a major marketing engine for the organization, and we started thinking about similar opportunities here,” Guelli said.

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