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CIAA Adds Sponsors During Recession

Charlotte Post, February 20, 2009

By Herbert L. White

The recession may have flattened sponsorships for major league sports enterprises, but the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament is growing its portfolio.

According to IEG, a national publication that tracks the sponsorship industry, the recession has put a damper on sports partnerships.  The CIAA, however, is bucking the trend by adding sponsorship and retaining longtime affiliations. Among the new sponsors is Nationwide Insurance, which was added as the league's official insurance provider, Kodak and Amtrak.

"While no one is immune to the recession, we have worked hard with our partners on renewals to provide value added opportunities to achieve greater (return on investment)," CIAA Commissioner Leon Kerry said. "We had sponsor contracts up for renewal in the two hardest-hit sectors of the economy, banking (Charlotte-based Bank of America) and automotive (Ford Motor Company)."

The CIAA, along with sponsorship marketing firm, Urban Sports and Entertainment Group LLC moved quickly to shore up the league's sponsorships by sitting down with corporate partners at its annual summit after last year's tournament.

"We went to our sponsors and said, 'Hey, we know you're in a tough spot, and we're all in this can we help you get more value out of the sponsorship?'" said Urban Sports Senior Vice President of Sales Micah Fuller. "We had eight sponsor contracts come up for renewal in 2008.  All renewed including Ford, our title sponsor for the Fan Experience and our ESPN broadcasts.   We were also able to secure a three-year deal with Bank of America which will include a $200,000 scholarship donation this year."

While major corporations have scaled back sports-related sponsorships for auto racing to professional football, the CIAA's partners have stayed in place.

"Four of our sponsors are currently under contract and did not request any changes," Fuller said. "Two of our current sponsors whose contracts were up for renewal actually upgraded and extended their contracts.  We signed three new sponsors, including Kodak, Amtrak and Nationwide Insurance to a new three-year partnership.  No sponsor defected from the CIAA."

The CIAA claims a 92 percent sponsorship retention rate, which league officials attribute to more tournament attendance that typically tops 100,000 fans; $30.7 million impact on the Charlotte economy and the only national television presence for an NCAA Division II conference.

"It's all about providing value back to the sponsors."  Kerry said.   "We're in it for the long haul.  We've been around for over 90 years, and while it's a tough environment for everyone, we'll continue to work harder and smarter for our corporate partners.  They're the lifeblood of what we do."