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    A Review of the AZ Sports Landscape in 2024

    A Review of the AZ Sports Landscape in 2024 - Line Drive Sports Marketing
    Source: Getty


    It’s that time of year again when we review our sports marketing landscape to identify trends for what might be your next best sports investment in the Phoenix market. I try to do this annually but it appears that the last time we ventured down this path was May 2022. If you’re interested in how surprisingly accurate I actually was you can read that blog here


    There are many factors that go into a successful sports sponsorship … fan engagement is a big one and in Phoenix, engagement is driven by winning. Another important factor is the marketing expertise of the person selling you the sponsorship. It’s important to note that you can buy an ineffective sponsorship deal with a successful franchise and a highly impactful sponsorship deal with a team that is struggling. 


    So important that I underlined it. Let’s take a look at where things stand in Arizona.





    The Diamondbacks are currently having a painfully mediocre season on the heels of the amazing success they had last year. Sponsors, however, are enjoying large crowds at the ballpark based on ticket purchases made by fans who jumped on the defending NL champions bandwagon. I do love this organization both from a leadership standpoint and from a team perspective. They aren’t a group that’s content with losing so affiliating with them is always a good idea. 


    My only negative as it pertains to the Dbacks is their current TV deal. It’s definitely a step back distribution-wise from where they’ve been historically. Until this whole digital distribution issue plays out, that’s a trend at the forefront with lots of teams in Major League Baseball. 


    If you are considering a sponsorship with them I’d recommend you contact Tiffanie Tallman. She’s been with them for quite a while and she knows her stuff. I am bullish on the Diamondbacks for lots of reasons. As a marketer, I love their long season and their ability to connect with their diverse and valuable fan base. 




    It’s probably important to note that no league is as good at hyping the season as the NFL so buyer beware there. Everyone is a contender in July. That being said I do like our coach, the draft, and a lot of things I’m seeing on the field. I think they’re building something special and worth investing in if there’s interest and the proper budget/strategy to support it.


    What’s not favorable for them are the recent changes to their sponsorship staff. I’m not sure why the team would move off of people as gifted as Steve Ryan and Mike Iaquinta. They did a great job with what they had to sell regardless of whether it was a good or a bad year. That takes skill that not every team has … definitely a head shaker there. 


    I think a long-term play with this franchise would be OK if the deal was right. They may have lightning in a bottle but a safer bet would be to give it a couple of years.





    The Phoenix Suns are, in my opinion, the most sophisticated sponsorship team in the Valley’s sports team portfolio. They are on top of their game digitally. They excel in game-day activations, and they serve their partners well with advanced strategies that typically prove effective. 


    My only concern might be that they are reaching a point of saturation of sorts with their portfolio. Ascendant Mercury assets and adding a G League team in the market create opportunity but from where I sit, I don’t see a ton of room for more premium sponsors for the Suns. Candidly, it’s a good problem for them and one driven by Dan Costello who I think is the most gifted sports marketing professional in the market. 





    From a team performance standpoint, ASU has been frustratingly off the mark for way too long. This is very disheartening for their fanbase. There is a glimmer of optimism with an internal hire at the AD position, a new football coach, a ‘great’ recruiting class in basketball, and a late season run to form from ASU’s baseball team. 


    Beyond that, ASU’s sponsorship team has done a more than admirable job with what they have to work with. Brett Wallerstedt continues to steward the efforts of what I’m guessing is now an internal sponsorship team that’s not affiliated with a rights holder. 


    For any brands who are considering a partnership with ASU, I’d say that it would have to be the right deal. Coming off a decade of being underwhelming in every sport, my heart wants to believe that they are tired of losing. In one sense, you can’t fall off the floor so perhaps brighter days are ahead for ASU. 


    ASU’s lack of leadership and limited financial support from a disenfranchised fan base is going to be a tough mountain to climb. I do like their coaches and I do like their people … I just don’t like their chances for sustained success anytime soon. 





    Just FYI … while the rest of you were lamenting the poor performance of most of our market’s sports teams the Phoenix Rising were out winning the USL Championship last season. Yes, they play soccer outside in the 100-degree plus heat but they also have dollar beer night so let’s not be too harsh on our local professional futbol, er soccer, team.


    Joey Castor runs the show over there and he does so in a very consistent manner, much like the team he represents. I think they still suffer from a few growing pains but the Rising are worthy of your consideration for your sports dollar in this market. From what I understand they work hard to make the most out of your sports marketing investment. 





    A cornerstone member of Arizona’s sports portfolio for over five decades, the Fiesta Bowl gets included in this year’s rundown. I’m going to immediately caveat that just like their current tagline, the Fiesta Bowl is more than just a game. 


    For brands looking to add community service to their sports marketing mix, there is no better partner than the Fiesta Bowl. They offer partners a wide array of community events that serve their mission to youth, sports, and education. 


    The bowl has a great leader in Erik Moses. He’s a game-changer (literally and figuratively). You’ll see new things from this organization in the years to come worthy of their own blog. I’ll also mention that they’ve scored big with the acquisition of Mike Iaquinta to lead their sponsorship efforts. 





    Last but certainly not least are the Grand Canyon University Antelopes. They were deservedly mentioned back in 2022 as a good investment and they’ve held true to that every year since. GCU is ascendent across all fronts with their basketball team making noise in the tournament and their baseball team beating the likes of ASU and UofA head to head. 


    Ty Martin is running the show at GCU and doing a great job at it by all accounts. There are a lot worse things to do with your sports marketing investment beyond affiliating with a Christian university with successful sports teams and a burgeoning student and alumni population.


    If you run a business and have an interest in exploring a sports marketing investment with a local team I can help you do it effectively and efficiently. Contact me at or call my cell at 602.284.6722.

    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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