Monarch Insider No.12
Nov. 20, 2010
Monarch Insider #12 - Chuck Gray, general manager of ODU Sports Properties
Sponsorships help pay the way for ODU's on-court success
Brendan O'Hallarn Monarch Basketball Insider
I have a few goals this season for the Monarch Basketball Insider blog. Here's one of them: I want to shoot the t-shirt gun.
During a timeout at ODU basketball home games, Big Blue takes the court with an air-pressure `gun' and shoots rolled up t-shirts into the wildly appreciative crowd. It looks like too much fun.
Beyond the merriment, however, those rolled up t-shirts are helping pay the bills for ODU Athletics, a vital job in a difficult economy. And for each of the past two years, ODU Sports Properties has seen its sponsorship revenues increase by more than 30 percent.
That's a lot of rolled-up t-shirts.
"As general manager, I'm cognizant of trying not to make it too much. But companies want to be associated with Old Dominion. There's such a positive energy and mojo over here," said Chuck Gray, general manager of ODU Sports Properties, the division of CBS Collegiate Sports Properties responsible for sponsorship dollars for Old Dominion University Athletics.
Gray and director of sales Dan Gale are a two-person team responsible for selling sponsorships for ODU teams ranging from billboards, to online advertising, to in-game promotions.
"People allocate marketing dollars because they like the visibility that ODU Athletics provides. We do mainly football and basketball, but have advertising available at all our venues," Gray said.
The pressure is on to raise sponsorship dollars, because costs never decrease, and Old Dominion added football last season, a very expensive sport. But Gray said Old Dominion has an advantage, being one of the largest sports organizations in this entire region, without direct competition from the four major professional sports.
"If we were to be in Washington, D.C., we'd be competing with an NHL team, two NFL teams, two baseball teams. You get to those environments, and corporate dollars can stretch only so far," Gray said.
In addition to a clearer playing field, Gray said he's fortunate that his office has such a great product to sell ... a university with stellar athletic teams (half of ODU's fall teams qualified for the post season this year), and a sterling reputation for graduating players, and following NCAA rules.
"I don't know if selling's ever easy, but once we get them involved and get them on campus, so they can see what we've got happening here, from there it's easy to sell," he said.
Some ambitious ODU fans envision our football team one day competing with the Virginia Techs of the world, and our basketball team rising to the level of a Butler or Gonzaga - a national power, year in and year out. Gray said from a sales perspective, nothing succeeds like success.
"The more name recognition the better. Us playing Notre Dame on a national scale (in last year's NCAA Tournament) creates excitement around ODU Athletics," he said. "If you look at some of the things we and other teams in the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) are doing, I think great things are possible."
Once ODU's men's hoops team took the court for a charged-up home opener against Georgetown earlier this month, that's when Gray and Gale could finally enjoy their months of hard work.
"You get to see how your efforts add to the fan experience in a lot of different ways," Gray said. "It's kind of cool to see it all come together on game day, and you hope on game day you can relax a little bit, run around a visit your clients in a suite or their seats, and enjoy the game."
Brendan O'Hallarn, an employee in public relations at Old Dominion University, writes Monarch Basketball Insider. To see other stories, please see the Monarch Insider website, at http://www.odusports.com/ot/monarch-insider.html. If you would like to share your thoughts about ODU basketball, or have a story you'd like to see Brendan write, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.