Closing Shot: Ship Shape
The Battle on the Midway collegiate wrestling event continues to find ways to make the most of its grand stage, but organizers aren’t quite ready to say “mission accomplished.”
The Nov. 1 event transformed the deck of the USS Midway aircraft carrier into a wrestling venue, with 1,047 spectators on hand in San Diego to watch teams from Army, Navy, Fresno State and Wisconsin. It was the third time the event has been held.
San Diego-based Left Coast Wrestling and the San Diego Imperial Kids Wrestling Association stage the event, which for the second year in a row was shown on tape delay on CBS Sports Network. New this year was a warmup competition called Duals at Broadway Pier, held with the same four teams earlier in the day and streamed live on FloSports. The pier is adjacent to the USS Midway.
“Each year, we’ve added a new component and grown the event,” said Steve Miller, a partner in ProLine Image who handles marketing around the event. “The first year was proof of concept that we could work with the ship. The second year we added television. This year, we added both television and livestreaming and expanded from two teams to four teams.”
Miller declined to reveal financial terms of the media deals, saying only that a rights fee is involved, as are expenses that organizers must cover.
Miller was contacted between years one and two by Scott Yoffe, who was handling PR for the event. Miller and Yoffe worked together in the front office of the San Diego Chargers and Yoffe now runs his own communications firm. They both are now partners in Left Coast Wrestling as well.
In addition to boosting its media exposure, the event has strengthened its pitch to sponsors that now include the Marines, PowerBlanket, the Association of Mechanical Contractors, Embassy Suites, the USS Midway Museum, FortuneBuilders and others. PowerBlanket made a warming layer that went under the wrestling mat to prevent condensation.
Sponsor assets include mat and side signage, and branded on-screen graphics and commercial time during the televised and streamed coverage. Miller said sponsorships are in the mid to high five-figure range.
Fans could pay $25 for a general admission seat, $75 for the second and third rows, or $125 for a mat-side seat. Attendance was double what it was in year one. Local firm Continental Catering was hired to provide food and beverage service.
While its business metrics have improved, the event is still not quite at break-even for its six-figure budget, Miller said, but is getting close.
Planning is already underway for next year, when organizers hope to expand to eight teams, a move that would drive revenue further. The ultimate goal is for the event to be the official start to wrestling season, much like similar high-profile events have done the same for college basketball and football.