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Dallas-Fort Worth Sports Entities Score High on New Marketing Index

The Dallas Morning News, June 11, 2011

Among U.S. consumers, North Texas has four of the five most popular sports attractions in the state, according to a new index that ranks 939 professional, college and Olympic sports leagues, teams, stadiums and events across the country.

The Sports Property Index -- created after a survey of nearly 55,000 consumers and launched last month -- offers ammunition to those pushing to brand North Texas as a sports mecca.

Jerry Jones' $1.2 billion pigskin palace was the highest-ranked Texas sports entity in the new index created by The Marketing Arm, a Dallas-based marketing and promotion agency. It ranked 24th on the U.S. list.

Cowboys Stadium's major tenant, the Dallas Cowboys, was the second most popular Texas entity and was No. 36 on the U.S. list.

Only one entity outside of North Texas -- Houston's Reliant Stadium -- was listed among the top-five Texas sports attractions.

(The Marketing Arm did a separate survey of about 5,000 consumers in Canada, who gave their views on 21 Canadian properties.) Executives with the Marketing Arm say the index offers corporations that spend billions each year on sports sponsorships insights into which teams, venues and events are most popular with the audience they aim to reach. Using the database, the Marketing Arm can sort consumer preferences by age, income, gender and ethnicity.

"This is like subscribing to Nielsen data to see how well your TV ad might be performing," said Dan Belmont, president of the Marketing Arm. "We see it as a tool for brands to understand where opportunities might lie." Sponsorships on the rise The four major U.S. pro sports leagues -- NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and NHL -- were expected to rake in $2.28 billion in sponsorship dollars last year, according to the Sponsorship Report from IEG, a top research firm. That's part of an estimated pot of $11.66 billion in 2010 for all sports sponsorship deals, according to IEG.

Spending increased in 2010, a trend that is expected to continue this year. The gains mark a rebound from a spending decline in recession-rocked 2009.

As spending increases, so does the desire for more detailed data.

"Ninety percent of the time," knowing how a sports property ranks with a specific demographic is "absolutely crucial" to a potential sponsor, said James Emmett, features editor of London-based Sports Pro magazine.

"Companies sponsor teams, events [and] venues specifically to put themselves in front of that property's audience. Action sports, for example, appeal to a completely different demographic than the one that golf appeals to." Studies have shown that "the more loyal, the more passionate you are about a sports property, the more you are going to consider purchasing and actually purchase [products from] a brand that sponsors that sport," said Deb Vurpillat, a vice president at the Marketing Arm. "NASCAR is a perfect example." In general, sports facilities tended to score higher in the ranking than the teams that play there because the venues host events beyond game day.

Consumer preferences for the index were measured in January. That was before Super Bowl seat-gate and the Dallas Mavericks' stellar run in the NBA playoffs. The Mavericks ranked No. 10 on the list of Texas sports properties and No. 132 on the U.S. list.

The data will be updated by July -- which should capture some of the Mavs fever -- and in October.

Searching for subscribers The Marketing Arm hopes at least 25 companies will subscribe to the index database this year, for an annual fee of at least $25,000.

Initial subscribers include Dallas-based AT&T Inc., Vurpillat said. The telecom giant is widely rumored to be the most likely potential naming-rights sponsor for Cowboys Stadium.

The Cowboys did not respond to questions, and AT&T declined to comment.

The subscriber list also includes PepsiCo Inc., according to Vurpillat. PepsiCo is the parent of Plano-based FritoLay Inc., which sponsors the Fiesta Bowl. IEG lists PepsiCo as the top spender on sponsorships with an estimated outlay in 2010 of up to $340 million.

A spokesman for PepsiCo was not available for comment.

While the Marketing Arm expects most of the subscribers to be would-be sponsors, Vurpillat said the data also can help teams and venues market themselves.

And the initial data shows that in the minds of national consumers, the sports quotient of D-FW is already high.

The host committee that helped organize this year's Super Bowl is looking to morph into a regional sports commission to help raise that quotient even higher.

"It certainly bodes well for North Texas," Belmont said of the survey findings. "We not only have the benefit of great teams with owners who are icons in their respective sports, but we also have the premier venues that have made the bucket lists of true sports fans." GAME CHANGERS The top sports entities in North America, according to the new Sports Property Index from The Marketing Arm in Dallas.

Top 5 overall 1. Super Bowl 2. NFL 3. U.S. Olympic Team 4. Indianapolis Colts 5. Green Bay Packers D-FW notables on the list 24. Cowboys Stadium 36. Dallas Cowboys 37. Rangers Ballpark 76. Texas Rangers 121. American Airlines Center 132. Dallas Mavericks SOURCE: The Marketing Arm