Working on the slam dunk

If you can’t afford the high-dollar price tags that accompany the sponsorship deals at Cleveland’s most prestigious sports venues, you’re in good company.

However, a newly revived push to bring amateur athletic events to town may provide some reasonably priced sports marketing alternatives.

David Gilbert, president of Greater Cleveland Sport Commission, says one needs look no farther the recent U.S. Figure Skating Championships and first round of the NCAA Final Four Championship —- events brought to Cleveland by independent organizing committees —- to see the region’s support for amateur athletics. But outside the glow of national television coverage are scores of other organizations in search of host cities for their annual championship events.

It is these smaller events, which range from tae kwon do to collegiate rowing, that Gilbert sees as the bread and butter of the new push to bring amateur sporting events to the city. Even after resolving the funding issue that sunk the sports commission in the mid-’90s, Gilbert has a rocky road in front of him.

More than 200 cities routinely compete for amateur events that, on the low end, can inject a quick $1 million into the local economy.

Although bid fees for the biggest amateur events weigh in at a hefty $500,000, many others fall within a much more realistic price range. Gilbert sees partnerships with local corporations for some of these lower-profile events as a way to provide unique marketing deals for executives who want to focus their corporate message on certain niche markets or simply tie their company’s name to a sporting event.

“You’re not talking huge dollar amounts like it is to be in one of the stadiums,” says Gilbert. “It’s much more manageable. With every event that comes in, we’re going to be involved in the sponsorship. They are always going to have an audience.

“And some of them may be really small money, but it’s a chance to tie into sports and, as more come in, there are going to be more opportunities.” How to reach: Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, (216) 621-0600

Jim Vickers ([email protected]) is an associate editor at SBN.