A sponsorship sales strategy that concentrates on servicing and delivering tailored activation programs has helped the Triple A Portland Beavers grow sponsorship revenue by double digits each of the past three seasons.

In addition, the baseball club has seen sponsor renewals climb each year, culminating in a 92 percent renewal rate for this season.

The team this year has added more than 20 partners, including Esurance Inc.; Leap Wireless Int’l, Inc.’s Cricket Communications; and United States Bakery’s Franz Family Bakeries. It also concluded renewals with Doctor’s Assoc., Inc.’s Subway Restaurants, Providence Health System and other sponsors.

Ryan Brach, who came on board in the fall of ’04 as the team’s vice president of corporate partnerships and suite sales, credits the Beavers’ success in large part to sponsor servicing, in particular the planning and implementation of leveraging initiatives.

“We focus on creating unique activation programs for each of our sponsors because it allows us to deliver more value. We only have four signs on our outfield wall–a lot of teams have 10,” Brach said.

Below, IEG SR highlights some of the steps the team has taken to generate consistent year-over-year revenue growth:

Commit additional resources to servicing. Brach, who joined the Beavers after working as corporate sales manager for the NBA Sacramento Kings, determined that a staff of three was inadequate to both sell and service sponsors of the Beavers, as well as their sibling, the USL Portland Timbers soccer team.

This was especially true in light of issues that corporate partners had with the team’s management prior to its sale to new owners in early ’05. (Those owners, the Portland Baseball Investment Group, sold both the Beavers and Timbers last week.)

“There was some distrust for us in the corporate world, so it was imperative that we really deliver for our clients,” Brach said. “All we had was our word.”

To overcome that challenge, Brach doubled the size of the sponsorship group, directing that twice as much time be spent on sponsor fulfillment.

“We wanted our partners to feel like there was always someone to talk to, which wasn’t the case in the past,” Brach said. “Previously, the team’s goal was just to bring on sponsors. That didn’t benefit anyone and sponsors didn’t come back.”

He also gave each sponsorship team member ownership of specific clients and their activation programs–a tactic that has helped retain staff and build trust with corporate partners, he said. “Our low turnover has helped make our corporate partners more comfortable with us.”

Whet prospects’ interest with one-year initial contracts. When selling sponsorship, the Beavers look to make it easier to say yes by offering a one-year deal for the first year.

The idea is that the team will then have an opportunity to upsell those sponsors on larger, multiyear contracts once it has demonstrated its value, which has happened in numerous cases, Brach said.

For example, Subway this year renewed and expanded its partnership with a multiyear tie that includes both the Beavers and Timbers. The chain is activating the sponsorship with ticket-back coupons.

Customize proprietary programs. A key component of the team’s strategy to provide targeted activation ideas is developing distinct initiatives that allow each sponsor to have a unique association with the Beavers.

“We try to give our partners ownership to specific programs,” Brach said.

Significantly, that strategy has allowed the team to forge deals with multiple companies within a category. For example, the team is working with four brands in the malt beverage category, each of which is tied to a specific promotion or benefit.

Portland-based craft brewer Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. distributes co-branded coasters at local upscale bars and restaurants, while Miller Brewing Co. leverages its tie to reach 21-to-30-year-olds through “Thirsty Thursday” promotions at targeted bars and nightclubs in the area.

Heineken USA Inc. has on-site rights at PGE Park for its flagship brand and also sponsors the Beavers on behalf of the Tecate brand, for which it is the exclusive U.S. importer. Tecate was presenting sponsor of the exhibition match earlier this month between the Timbers and Mexican League team Nexaca.

Support sponsors’ philanthropic activities. Recognizing the importance to many corporations of their community outreach efforts, the team makes a point of working with sponsors on programs that support those initiatives.

For example, Franz Family Bakeries is running a promotion that touts the chance for kids to attend a Beavers or Timbers youth sports camp at a discount rate, with a portion of the registration fee supporting a local charity. The bakery is touting the promotion on product packaging.

Last year, the team worked with Willoughby Hearing Aid Centers Inc. on a promotion that donated a hearing aid to a child for every home run the team hit.