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Volume 22 No. 31
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Executives recall sale that started it all

‘I was elated and euphoric after closing the first sale. The feeling never gets old.’

STEVE ROSNER
Co-founder | 16W Marketing
In the spring of 1973, I’m a freshman in high school and along with some of my friends we decided to enter a softball team in the Bayonne (N.J.) Rec League. I assembled a target list of local businesses that may have had interest in sponsoring our team to pay for both our uniforms and entry fee. I was in search of $150 to cover EVERYTHING.

I then headed downtown to AAA Sporting Goods (where most of my teammates and I purchased our Chuck Taylor Converse basketball sneakers) with a three-page presentation on the benefits there would be for them to sponsor us. This is way before computers, so this was done using a typewriter with the presentation inside a report cover I used for school.
Not only did the owner agree to sponsor our team, but we also became the only team in the league with names on the back of the jerseys. Their sponsorship received lots of exposure since we eventually won the league championship and garnered constant headlines throughout the spring in the Bayonne Times sports section.

KENT THOMAS
Senior vice president of business intelligence | rEvolution
My first sponsorship sale came after a vivid dream. Early in my career, while working as a consumer electronics manufacturer’s rep in Denver, I knew there had to be more that I could accomplish career-wise. I needed to be involved with my passion, sports.
One day, I was introduced to Bob Lazier, a former Indy driver from Vail. Bob had two sons, Buddy and Jaques, who were up-and-coming in the racing ranks. The older brother, Buddy, was on the verge of making it big and needed a sponsorship to find a steady, competitive IndyCar ride.

After the initial conversations, the thought of trying to get Buddy a sponsor kept me up late at night. On one such night, a Viper car alarm commercial came on and it triggered an idea. That night, I dreamt about Buddy driving a purple IndyCar with the Viper car alarm logo across the sidepods. I needed to make it happen.
In 1992, when I was just 29 years old, I proposed a completely custom marketing campaign built around a sponsorship idea, to Viper Auto Security’s founder, Darrell Issa (now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives). The deal was secured for $3 million. I had landed the first sponsorship deal I had ever pitched, and was hooked forever on the chase for sponsorship dollars.

BEN SHAPIRO
Founder and CEO | Pivot Marketing Agency
My first sponsorship sale was when I was a ticket sales manager at the Golden State Warriors. A fan approached me at a marketing table during a game and was interested in purchasing floor seats. After closing that deal, I realized that he valued using his floor seat access to take his clients and guests into the VIP Courtside Club.

I thought to myself that there was no entitlement attached to the Courtside Club, and that it would be great for his entertainment needs. I convinced the VP of corporate sales at the time to allow me to pitch the opportunity. I upsold his current ticket package to a $500,000 per year partnership, becoming one of the biggest partners of the organization.
At only 26 years old, it was a thrilling challenge finding a creative solution that matched a client’s objectives. … This led me to eventually lead the sponsorship division at the Warriors, and more importantly start my own company. … I think it’s fair to say I caught the bug!

CHRIS STUART
Director of sales | Raycom Sports
I started my career in minor league baseball as an intern with the Palm Springs Angels, the Class A affiliate of the then California Angels in the California League. I was hired in the fall of 1989 at the MLB winter meetings in Atlanta by GM Marshall Stone as part of the Job Seekers Seminar.

Four interns were hired that fall. We shared a two-bedroom condo in Palm Springs, Calif., across the street from the Palm Springs Municipal Golf Course. That season on a salary of $800 per month, I cut my teeth in sales and baseball administration. I began my career selling everything — radio ads, outfield fence signs, and game-day program ads — to the local area Palm Springs businesses. … I started scouring the Yellow Pages to create our target list and then hit the streets going business to business with our four-page, four-color glossy sales piece.
My first sale was to the Westin Palm Springs Mission Hills Resort. I was able to structure a deal that included radio ads on our flagship station, an outfield fence sign for the season, a ticket package for the hotel/resort guests as well as discount golf rounds at the resort for our players and staff during off time. I was elated and euphoric after closing the first sale. The feeling never gets old.

JAMES CASE
Vice president of advertising | OneUp Sports
I will never forget my first sponsorship campaign — huge win for the company but even more so, my confidence.

The deal was with Chevrolet to help build their Facebook followers. … At the meeting to close the deal, the client asked me a simple question and I just did not have a good answer for him. Instead of lying or making something up, I was honest (almost to a fault!) and told them I did not have the answer. I ended up calling them the next day and provided the correct answer to the question and they appreciated my honesty in the process.
That was a lesson I have taken with me throughout my career.

GREG WALTER
Vice president of partnership development | Speedway Motorsports Inc.
My first job out of college was working for a small AM radio station in Wilson, N.C., in 1985 called WVOT. I was an account representative, and our flagship sports properties were the North Carolina State football and basketball games we aired.

My first sponsorship sale was to a local car dealership, and by anyone’s standards the sponsorship wasn’t very big, but it was to me! We came up with a test drive promotion that centered on winning tickets to a game, which ended up being a huge success for the dealer. My client was not a fan of N.C. State, nor any college sports for that matter, but he knew a lot of his customers followed N.C. State in a big way, and those were the people he wanted to reach. He told me, “Their passion can mean money for me! I just have to tap into that!”
That was years ago, and I have sold a lot of different sports along the way, but the lessons learned there have stuck with me and are still relevant. Sports sponsorship in any fashion is about leveraging a fan’s affinity for their sport to benefit a brand or business.