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Inside a Rays sponsorship deal: What $1-million buys

Sports teams aren't very chatty about their corporate-sponsorship deals. There's little upside to publicly disclosing dollar amounts or other confidential details. But a rare window into such arrangements opened in January when the Tampa Bay Rays sued Academic Financial Services Inc. and attached a copy of the parties' three-year, $1-million sponsorship contract. The pact with AFS, a Tampa issuer of student loans, is kaput after just one year. AFS blew it by bouncing a $220,000 check to the Rays last year and breaking a promise to fund a $10,000 scholarship contest, which forced the baseball franchise to pull out its own wallet. AFS is no longer in business. Still, the 2007-09 contract remains an epiphany. How else would we know that the Rays dole out signage in half-inning increments, or that personal data the team captures during some fan contests are turned over to the sponsor?

Parties, beer cups and contests

College students were a key market for AFS. What better way to raise its profile among them than with cold, subsidized beer? Under this promotion, AFS would:

  • Host "College Night" at every Friday home game — 12 per season — on the left-field party deck. Admission: $5 with student ID. Special "welcome" message shown on scoreboard.
  • Distribute loan information to students and register them for a $500 weekly scholarship contest, paid for by AFS.
  • Sell $1 beers in one of 10,000 cups cobranded with the AFS and Rays logos.
  • Host a grand-prize contest among the 12 weekly winners on the last Friday of the season. Winning team splits $10,000, provided by AFS.
  • Free caps — with a twist

    As part of its sponsorship deal, the Rays would:

  • Give away AFS/Rays hats to the first 15,000 fans on College Alumni Night.
  • Promote the giveaway in TV, radio and print ads.
  • Include a five-digit code with each hat. Fans who entered the code on a special Web page would be eligible for prizes, including the chance to toss a ball around with a Rays player. Rays would forward all consumer data captured through the contest to AFS.
  • Three signs

    Under its sponsorship deal with the Rays, AFS' name would be featured on three signs:

  • A large sign beneath the left-field party deck. Visible from roughly three-quarters of the seats inside Tropicana Field, the sign would display AFS' name for half an inning per game.
  • A small sign behind home plate, aimed primarily at TV viewers. AFS' name would appear for half an inning per game.
  • Two panels on the marquee sign outside Tropicana Field and along Interstate 275. Target: commuters.
  • Radio feature

  • A Rays' radio announcer would announce the AFS "Getting Schooled Moment of the Game." Frequency: all 162 games.
  • Scott Barancik can be reached at or (727) 893-8751.

    Inside a Rays sponsorship deal: What $1-million buys 03/14/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 11:17am]
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