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posted: 5/6/2013 8:05 AM

Sports offer small business marketing opportunities

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Want to reach homeowners? Looking for young families with kids and solid incomes? The Chicago Red Stars have them. So do the Chicago Wolves and Schaumburg Boomers.

The Boomers, Wolves and Red Stars are three of a growing number of suburban sports teams that draw thousands of fans to their games. Think marketing. Think eyeballs seeing your in-game promotion. Think affordable.

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"It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish as a business," says Wolves President Mike Gordon. "You shouldn't have any preconceived notions" about sports marketing.

There are plenty of options:

• The Wolves, whose corporate home is in Glenview, play hockey at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, where attendance averages 300,000 a season. Gordon and his staff know how to develop sponsor packages -- and will look at virtually anything that will benefit both sponsor and team. "Got a film to promote?" Gordon asks. "Hand out posters at a game."

Tom Kelly uses the tickets that are part of his company's Wolves' package as a thank you for clients and employees. The tickets "give us the opportunity to entertain," says Kelly, vice president of Balanced Environments Inc., a commercial landscape contractor based in Old Mill Creek (near Wadsworth in Lake County).

But the sponsor package also includes his company's name 10 games a year on the dasher boards that surround the rink, positioned to be caught by TV cameras; between periods promotions; the opportunity to connect with local charities; and player personal appearances.

Cost? "The Wolves make it affordable," Kelly says.

The Schaumburg Boomers and Chicago Red Stars offer marketing opportunities as well. The Boomers play baseball in a waiting-to-be-named stadium off the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway; opening day is May 15. The Chicago Red Stars, part of the National Women's Soccer League, play through mid-August at the Benedictine University sports complex in Lisle.

• The sponsorship key, says Red Stars General Manager Alyse LaHue, "is to make sure our brands are aligned." The soccer club reaches "affluent, active families with active kids."

If that's your market, consider these possibilities: Ads in free Red Star game day programs; sponsorship banners around the field; a table where you can greet fans and give away coupons; and the 20,000 fans in the team's electronic database.

When we talked, LaHue noted "We don't have a jersey front partner yet." How would your logo look on a Red Stars uniform?

• We do well when we talk (with potential sponsors) about what would make their businesses better," says Andy Viano, president and general manager of the Boomers.

Stadium naming rights likely are beyond most small businesses, but Viano notes that sponsorships of between innings activities are available; your ad could be on the stadium's video board. Selling pet supplies? "Come to our Bark in the Park Day," Viano suggests.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com

2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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