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JetBlue, Burger King among Real Salt Lake's new sponsors: Soccer ? TV accord with KUTV2 among pluses despite economy.
[March 19, 2009]

JetBlue, Burger King among Real Salt Lake's new sponsors: Soccer ? TV accord with KUTV2 among pluses despite economy.


(Salt Lake Tribune, The Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Mar. 19--SANDY -- Real Salt Lake President Bill Manning predicted in the fall that the team's new $110 million stadium would enhance the soccer team's attractiveness to corporate sponsors -- despite a gloomy economy.



He offered proof Wednesday.

JetBlue Airways has signed on as the official airline for Real Salt Lake and Rio Tinto Stadium.


Burger King has become a sponsor of similar financial magnitude, what Real labels a "Royal Partner." And the franchise has reached a broadcast agreement with KUTV, which will televise 24 Real Salt Lake games this season, many on the station's 2.2 digital channel that debuts in early April. With six other games on ESPN2 or Fox Sports Channel, all 30 soccer games this season will be available to mass audiences on TV.

"It's our best form of advertising," Manning said, expecting scenes of lively home crowds in Rio Tinto Stadium will fill its 20,008 seats more often. "People will see that and say, 'I want to come out with the kids, or my buddies.' " On a larger scale, Manning said the multiple sponsorships being unveiled formally today signify "that we're bucking the trend" of a recession-strangled economy. "If we can weather the storm of this economy this season, I think the sky's the limit." Real has felt the downturn, he acknowledged. Some former sponsors dropped out. Two potential sponsors, in telecommunications and automotive, withdrew just before signing contracts. A few season ticket holders did not renew.

Despite those setbacks, he is exhilarated by the successes experienced since the stadium opened in the fall with Rio Tinto's name on it.

The average sponsorship deal tripled in value, Manning said. Renewal rates are up 50 percent. Fifteen new sponsors signed on. Though declining to say specifically how much JetBlue, Burger King and other "Royal Partners" are paying, he said all deals were "well north of $150,000 annually." Also, all sponsorships are now multiyear agreements, a Real requirement that drove away some possible partners but proved desirable to others.

"We raised the bar to enter. We told them, 'To get to the level we want, we need you to step up.' They really answered the bell," Manning said, noting that fewer sponsors paying more will give the franchise and its stadium a less cluttered look -- "the last thing we need is to be like a NASCAR car" -- and enhance sponsors' investments.

"Without this building, I don't think I could tell you that story," he said. "It was a little risky. But this is how we want to do business. The companies that bought into us believe in that same philosophy." Lisa Borromeo, JetBlue's manager of national sponsorships, said Salt Lake City is an important market to her airline, which employs 2,000 people here, its second-largest base next to New York City.

"We are relevant in this market. We want to highlight our commitment to Salt Lake. We're not putting sponsorships everywhere," she said.

"The new stadium is a cherry. With our permanent signage, we'll be able to capitalize on all of the major concerts and potentially the college and high school football games that will be played there," Borromeo said.

Gary Moore, who has 30 of 55 Burger King franchises in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada, said Real's fan base closely matches the demographics of his fast-food chain.

Like Borromeo, he was enthused by the exposure his company's signs will get at the stadium's varied events. And Burger King will figure prominently in in-game promotions, such as possibly providing a free menu item after each team win. Though the bad economy mandates caution in advertising decisions, Moore said, "there wasn't a lot of decision-making based on the current economic times. People are still going to watch soccer." Dave Phillips, KUTV's vice president and general manager, thinks so, too.

"Soccer is such a large sport in the state ... and with the team's performance last season, interest seems to be growing," he said.

That interest should lure more viewers to the station's new digital channel. "It gives people another reason to find that channel and go there," Phillips said.

mikeg@sltrib.com Real Salt Lake's partners in 2009 Founding partners -- $250,000 or more: America First Credit Union, Anheuser-Busch (new), KFC, Mountain America Credit Union, Salt Lake Regional Medical Center Royal partners -- $50,000 or more: Burger King (new), JetBlue Airways (new), Hoopes Vision (new), Les Olson Co., SCA paper (new), Sony (new), Workers Compensation Fund, Zions Bank Corporate partners -- $25,000 or more: Allied Sign (new), Colonial Flag (new), Cricket Wireless (new), Fiji Water (new), Pepsi (new), Rocky Mountain Voice (new), Siegfried & Jensen, Waste Management Inc. (new), Xinsurance (new).

Stadium naming partner -- Rio Tinto (new) Jersey sponsor -- XanGo Source: Real Salt Lake Major League Soccor Preview The MLS season opens for 14 of its 15 teams this weekend. Check out Tribune Sports for a preview and list of games . › D2 To see more of The Salt Lake Tribune, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sltrib.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Salt Lake Tribune Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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