When the nonprofit Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. purchased the annual Boomsday Labor Day festival and fireworks show for less than $50 from radio station owner Journal Broadcast Group, Inc. in ’05, it needed to ensure it could cover the event’s nearly $1 million in production costs.

“We couldn’t afford to lose money by taking ownership of the festival,” said Robin Hamilton, vice president of sales and marketing for the organization, which was created four years ago through the merger of the Knoxville Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Greater Knoxville Sports Corp.

By taking a strategic approach to its sponsorship sales effort, KTSC was able to more than double sponsorship revenue for the ’06 event by upselling current partners–including a 50 percent jump by the Knoxville Area Chrysler Jeep Dealers Assn. to title the event–and attracting new sponsors such as Schwan’s Home Service, Inc.; Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc.; and local Anheuser-Busch, Inc. distributor Eagle Distributing Co.

Focus On Activation And Cross-promotions Pays Off
KTSC attracted new sponsor dollars in part by providing turnkey leveraging programs to existing sponsors and prospects.

That type of assistance was a core requirement for the Chrysler Jeep dealers’ group.

“We wanted something that was turnkey, and we wanted the program to drive traffic to our dealerships,” said Johnny Wayne Farris, CEO of Farris Motor Co. and director of the dealers’ association. “Those issues were paramount to us.”

To answer the call, KTSC developed a cross-promotion with an unlikely partner, Schwan’s, which offers home delivery of ice cream and other frozen food products produced by parent company The Schwan Food Co.

KTSC offered Schwan’s on-site sales rights in exchange for providing its show car associated with its sponsorship of a Petty Enterprises’ Dodge NASCAR Nextel Cup entry for a joint promotion with the Chrysler Jeep dealers, as well as for an on-site exhibit.

Schwan’s brought the show car to the association’s 17 area dealerships. To further enhance the program, Schwan’s also provided a Dodge ice cream truck and distributed free frozen treats.

KTSC brought in one of its radio station partners to conduct remotes from the dealer events.

The promotion benefited all three parties at little cost to the festival, Hamilton said. “All we had to pay for was the radio personalities.”

The promotion was well-received by the dealer association.

“It was great for us because it drove traffic to each dealer,” said Farris, adding that the promotion helped win corporate support for the increased sponsorship from Chrysler Group through ad agency BBDO Detroit and its Atlanta regional office.

“I give KTSC a lot of credit because we never had to lift a finger and our dealers loved it,” Farris said. In addition to the promotion, the dealers’ association received an area at the festival that it used to showcase concept cars supplied by corporate and gained prominent visibility on an illuminated sign on the bridge where fireworks were launched.

Outsourcing Other Operations Allows Concentration On Sponsorship
KTSC credits part of its sponsorship success to bringing on Concessions by Cox, Inc. to manage all of the food and beverage vendors at the festival. That allowed the event to put more focus on recruiting sponsors and developing targeted promotional overlays, Hamilton said.

“It let us home in on building relationships with our partners,” he said. “We’re thinking about having Cox handle all of our vendor tents for next year’s festival so that we can more fully focus on sponsorship sales.”

To secure Coca-Cola Enterprises’ participation, KTSC reviewed previous year’s soft drink sales, estimated what the expanded three-day event would be able to sell this year and guaranteed the bottler a 1,500-case minimum.

KTSC earned a 25 percent commission on the vendors’ sales.

“It was a win-win all around,” noted Hamilton. “Coke met its minimum case sales number, Cox made money and we didn’t have to count inventory in and out on the beverage side.”