Often when a wave of mergers and acquisitions strikes a category, a shrinking number of companies means a growing number of sponsorships.

That scenario currently is playing out among competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), with new deals coming from large players that have grown larger in the past couple of years through buyouts and mergers.

CLECS–a category created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996–are phone service providers that offer combinations of voice, data and Internet services to business customers, in competition with established carriers.

As purely B2B players, CLECs primarily use sponsorship to accomplish three key objectives:
• Entertain clients and prospects
• Gain business from sponsored teams, cosponsors and related organizations
• Build credibility via property testimonials

Two of the most active sponsors among CLECs are One Communications Corp. and Paetec Holding Corp.

In addition to other deals, Paetec is titling a four-stop music tour in part to promote its presence in new markets following its February acquisition of McLeodUSA Inc. and last year’s purchase of US LEC Corp.

One Communications late last year filled its first dedicated sponsorship position. The company was formed following a merger between Choice One Communications, Inc. and CTC Communications Corp. and the subsequent acquisition of Conversent Communications, Inc.

Zachary Fraser, the company’s sports marketing and events manager, oversees a large sponsorship portfolio, with many of its partnerships being legacy deals from Choice One and CTC.

Fraser noted the company is seeking a new deal to replace its sponsorship of the NFL Buffalo Bills, which ended this year.

Paetec Pays For Music Tour
Paetec, which offers service in 82 of the top 100 U.S. markets, created the Paetec Music Tour to build visibility and entertain clients and prospects in Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago and Tampa.

The tour features a different multi-artist line-up at each two-day stop. Acts include Anita Baker, George Benson, Dr. John, Boz Scaggs and Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band.

“We value face-to-face interaction. You don’t see us buying billboards,” said Jeff Burke, Paetec’s chief marketing officer.

The company created the tour after a positive experience sponsoring the first-time Paetec Jazz Festival in Baltimore last August. “It was a success based on feedback from our existing customers and the amount of business we generated after the event,” Burke said.

Paetec chose the tour markets for different reasons. For example, the Charlotte stop will be used to build visibility among businesses in US LEC’s former hometown, while Chicago and Tampa were selected due to the large number of existing customers in those areas.

In addition to the music tour, Paetec sponsors many other properties. On the local level, Paetec has regional directors in each of its 82 markets who scout sponsorship opportunities.

“If our frontline managers see a sales or promotional opportunity, we want them to take it,” said Burke, who signs off on ties.

Local deals include Chattanooga, Tenn.’s Riverbend festival; Memphis Motorsports Park; the NFL Tennessee Titans; and the MLB Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals.

Paetec looks to gain business from sponsored properties in exchange for its rights fee. “We are more apt to work with properties if we can provide service,” said Burke, who refers to the partnerships as “modified barter.”

In its hometown of Rochester, N.Y., the company uses title of Paetec Park–home to the USL Rochester Rhinos and other minor league sports teams–to build visibility and demonstrate its community support.

One For All: CLEC Gains New Business Through Property Relationships
Privately held One Communications targets small-to-medium-sized companies in 16 Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states.

The company uses its sponsorships of the Boston Marathon, MLB Baltimore Orioles, NFL Pittsburgh Steelers and other sports properties to entertain clients and prospects, and leverages the ties to gain business from the sponsored teams, their parent organizations and cosponsors.

For example, One Communications has leveraged its two-year-old sponsorship of Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center to gain business from a number of entities controlled or managed by venue owner Comcast Spectacor, L.P. and its subsidiaries, including the NBA 76ers; NFL Flyers; Trenton, N.J.’s Sovereign Bank Arena; Boston University’s Agganis Arena; and other facilities.

One Communications also has leveraged its sponsorship of the AFL Philadelphia Soul to gain business from team co-owner and real estate developer The Arden Group, Inc., said Lou Goldberg, One Communications’ Philadelphia branch manager.

To influence other businesses, the company touts its partnerships on business cards and other marketing collateral.

Other One Communications sponsorships include the MLB Boston Red Sox, NFL Green Bay Packers, Atlantic League of Independent Baseball’s Camden Riversharks and roughly a dozen other minor league baseball teams.

Fraser works with the company’s field offices to scout sponsorship opportunities and manage partnerships.