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    A Review of Phoenix’s Sports Portfolio

    As we watched the last minutes of the sports game that was 2018 wind down, the fans of Phoenix’s sports teams seemingly have a few positives to look forward to in the coming years. It feels like an eternity since anyone has achieved excellence on the field, court, or ice in our beloved state. Few teams are making the type of noise we need to stay interested as a fickle fan base.

    The same may be true for businesses looking at Phoenix’s sports sponsorship opportunities in 2019 and beyond. When you look at each team, there are probably only a few with sponsors that are as happy as the fans. It’s my opinion that sports teams are like stocks … sometimes they are trending up and sometimes it might be best to avoid them. Like stocks, it’s best to buy a sponsorship when no one else sees the value and deals are more readily valuable.

    Please know too that a team that performs poorly doesn’t mean a sponsorship deal follows suit. A well-constructed sponsorship deal can be impervious to a bad team. That’s just one reason to get professional help with your investment. Just like buying stocks, you can go it alone or you can get help to be more successful.

    Not to overstate the obvious but a team that is performing well, particularly in Phoenix’s sports market, will benefit from greater fan engagement. Greater fan engagement will most certainly have a positive impact on your sponsorship. As we look forward to the coming year, there are lots more positives than you might think.


    Let’s start in Tempe where Sun Devil basketball … yes, basketball is playing a great brand of the game. The Sun Devils move the ball, shoot the ball (kind of) and defend the basket well enough to be 9-3 against a respectable non-conference schedule that includes a signature win over a number one ranked Kansas team. Coach Bobby Hurley has ASU on track to back to back tournament berths and greater notoriety for the program that’s long overdue.

    From a marketing perspective, ASU’s sales team can set you up with a favorable sponsorship package as long as the Devils can keep winning. The way Coach Hurley is coaching and recruiting, I think you’ll see this be a great place to invest your sponsorship dollars. This town loves basketball almost as much as they love a winner. ASU is hitting on both cylinders at press time is poised to be able to deliver good numbers for their basketball clients now and in the years to come.

    The Phoenix Rising is doing just that. This gutsy and talented bunch won their ways to the USL Finals this past year hosting two exciting playoff games in the process. And guess what? Going to a game doesn’t suck at all. In fact, I attended my first sporting event for “guys who can’t throw” and came away impressed. This game was exciting, the crowd was awesome, and the beers were a dollar. That’s a win-win-win.

    Here’s a couple of bonus points for the Rising. One, they have sharp people in their front office … especially on the marketing, sponsorship, and activation side. Two, they may be tabbed as the next MSL team as that league completes expansion. Here’s hoping the nod goes to what I see as one of the best run sports organizations in our market.

    Sun Devil Football also showed promise and overachieved nicely this year against low expectations. At the end of the day they were still 7-6 and playing 1/3 of their home games to smaller crowds in nearly unbearable heat against lesser opponents. That’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the way it is. All that being said, next years’ home schedule is a good one and fan engagement should be high for the Devils next season.


    I think the Coyotes can look good at times. They are young and fast but they haven’t quite put it together yet. I still love them from a sponsorship standpoint but can’t seem to find the right client with the right dollars or the intestinal fortitude to buy in to a team that’s still perceived as unsettled.

    I almost hate to put the Diamondbacks in the hold category. They had an exciting year all the way up to the end. I know that fans are upset about them trading Goldy but let’s be honest, their front office is smart and knows what they are doing. They have a lot of good people in place with a commitment to winning. That goes on the baseball side and the sponsorship side. Might not be next year but the Diamondbacks are never a bad bet when it comes to a sponsorship investment.


    The Phoenix Suns … well, let’s talk about that. They have young talent in place and as long as they don’t totally disenfranchise that talent, things should improve. Perhaps in a very big way. In fact, that may have started this past week on their road trip back east.

    The Suns are advanced on the sponsorship side with assets and strategies that are forward thinking. It’s a shame that the team is performing so poorly as they have some very talented people in sponsorship that know what they are doing. The front office stumbled a bit on the arena issue but memories are short. They start winning and this town will get behind them.

    To me, the Suns are like a penny stock that could be worth a lot sooner than later. It’s a great stock to speculate on for a big return in the near future. Perhaps it should be at the top of the buy list.

    Last and least the Arizona Cardinals have lit themselves on fire and jumped in a dumpster full of combustible materials soaked in kerosene. Optimistic pundits and fans say the team is two years out from a Super Bowl run. I don’t think so. This team has a lot of problems on the field that will take time to fix.

    The NFL is and will continue to be the 900 lb. gorilla in the market. I have no doubts that their sponsorship folks will survive this just fine. I doubt they will have too much trouble with renewals but they might struggle for new business. That being said, the timing is good for clients who might think that an NFL sponsorship deal is out of their price range.

    About the author: Ed Olsen is the CEO of Line Drive Sports Marketing. He is a former adjunct professor at Arizona State University and has lots of opinions on all things sports.

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