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Volume 20 No. 41


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.

With two more wins, Mark Ein’s Washington Kastles will have accomplished something no other professional sports team has done.

They’re in this position because they’ve posted two straight undefeated seasons.

The Kastles have 32 consecutive wins heading into the 2013 Mylan World TeamTennis season. The team is working to find equal success with business partners and community initiatives.
“Last year, sitting here a few weeks before the season started, people were asking the players and me what did we think was going to happen … and we said, ‘Well, obviously that [a 16-0 season in 2011] had never happened before, so it’ll never happen again.’ And it did. So now, it’s got a bunch of attention.”

With their 32 consecutive wins, when the Kastles begin their 2013 Mylan World TeamTennis season on July 8, they’ll have a chance to tie the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1971-72 record for consecutive wins in U.S. team sports. They could break the Lakers’ record the following night, July 9.

Ein is the founder and owner of the Kastles, having launched the team in 2008. Born in Maryland, Ein, 48, has deep ties to the Washington, D.C., area. He is the founder and CEO of the investment and acquisition firms Venturehouse Group and Capitol Acquisition Corp., among other business involvements. He’s also chairman of the D.C. Public Schools Education Fund and is a director at large on the board of the U.S. Tennis Association.

The Kastles play at Kastles Stadium at the Wharf. Built in 2011, the venue seats about 2,700 and is located on the Potomac River, with views of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. The roster for the team, which competes in WTT’s team-based tennis format, includes Martina Hingis, Leander Paes and Venus Williams.
“The original idea was that if we built the stadium and brought the team here, it would be a way to bring our community together,” Ein said. “Give back to the community, and help local charitable partners — and those were our founding principles.”

Each year, the Kastles support more than 100 local youth and military charities, put on tennis clinics throughout the community, and give 1,000 free tennis rackets to youth to help promote the sport.

Team sponsors include Geico, Bloomberg, SunTrust and Events DC. Team officials also work with the ATP/WTA Tour Citi Open, which hits the capital this month as well. WTT’s season is only three weeks, all in July. Ein calls it a “good, mutually productive relationship” with the tournament, noting that he was a ball boy for the event as a child.

Donald Dell, Citi Open tournament chairman, also noted the collaborative effort of the groups. “We strongly believe that the more people we can collectively expose to tennis, the better,” he said, in a statement. “Mark has done a great job promoting team tennis in the Washington area.”

Ein sees opportunity for the team, and the sport, beyond the most immediate prospect of the Kastles breaking the team-sports win mark.

“It’s sort of, everyone in Washington comes together around this thing for three weeks and has a great time and roots for their hometown, and in the process we’re doing good in the community and making more people love the sport of tennis,” he said. “So that’s great.”

The New York Mets have hired Lou DePaoli as the team’s executive vice president and chief revenue officer.

While that title represents a new position for the Mets, as sales chief, DePaoli is replacing Dave Howard, former executive vice president of business operations, who left in March after 20 years, joining Madison Square Garden as MSG Sports president.

DePaoli, who has a rare combination of ticketing and sponsorship sales acumen, will head all revenue areas for the Mets and report to COO Jeff Wilpon.

DePaoli begins with the Mets on July 22. Since 2008, he has been executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Earlier, he was executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena. He also spent five years with the NBA, working as vice president, team marketing and business development, and from 1996-2000, he was director of ticket sales and later vice president of sales and marketing with the Florida Marlins.

— Terry Lefton