Sponsorships Part Three: Tournaments
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
In two previous columns, we discussed sponsorships from the point of view of players (Sep/Oct 08) and manufacturers (Nov/Dec 08). The other area where sponsorships play an important role is tournaments and related events. This area is particularly important to Ashaway as we have been the Official String for USA Racquetball for many years, and as such, we are eager to support the cause of racquetball. (And being the only US manufacturer of racquetball string, our hope is that USA Racquetball members will support us as well!)
That said, it's also important to note that, much as we would like to, we cannot possibly sponsor every deserving event. We often can't even do as much as we would like with the sponsorships we do provide. Like other manufacturers, we do not offer sponsorships out of charity or as acts of philanthropy or kindheartedness. We are kindhearted, to be sure, but sponsorships are business activities. They are part of our marketing programs, and like any other business activity, they must be accounted for and generate a return.
In our case, that return is visibility for our company and the opportunity to have people try our string, especially young people who are new to the sport. We believe that once people try our string, there's a good chance they'll stick with it. For that reason, string is a very important component of all our sponsorship efforts.
So we focus our efforts on providing string through different tournaments and charitable (often youth-oriented) events. This can be done in any number of ways. Sets of string can be included as part of a player's registration package, offered as prizes for tournament winners at various levels or for different divisions, or given out as prizes at banquets, dances, raffles or other tournament-related events. For junior programs, the goal is simply to help put string in the racquets of kids who might otherwise not be able to afford it.
As tournaments increase in size and participation, our sponsorship activities become more ambitious, with major National and professional tour events providing the most visibility. Here we will negotiate a number of different packages, often getting to display Ashaway banners near the courts, print logos on shirts and hats, or be listed in tournament literature and promotions as part of the deal. For signature events we will often work with a tournament stringer, set up a stringing service booth, and offer special promotions for sponsored and non-sponsored players. At last year's US Open, for example, Ashaway partnered with Rex Lawler to provide a number of string-related services to both professional and amateur participants.
But as noted, there are always more deserving events than we have sponsorship resources. For an organization or tournament to qualify, we look at a number of criteria related to the ability of the event to generate visibility. These include its reputation and track record with us in the past, the number of players participating, the number of similar events in the area, and what we see as the future potential of the event. We don't always work with the biggest events, but with those we feel hold the best promise for Ashaway and the sport in general.
So sponsorships are a good thing, well worth the investment we and other manufacturers make in them. And they're good because unlike advertising or other strictly promotional activities, they are win-win propositions: manufacturers win with increased visibility for their products; tournaments and organizations win with valuable product or other resources to support their activities; players win by becoming the recipients of those products; and the sport as a whole wins by the synergy of all participants working together.
This article previously appeared in Racquetball Magazine.