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February 2006 Super Bowl Sponsorship

TicketCity.com hopes Super sponsorship will help boost ticket broker's image

Austin Business Journal
February 3, 2006 by Jonathan Selden Austin Business Journal Staff

This comes on the heels of TicketCity's unsuccessful attempt in 2002 to sponsor the Silicon Valley Football Classic college bowl game, and in advance of the company's upcoming role as the official VIP concierge service at the Kentucky Derby in May.

TicketCity is sponsoring the Playboy bash's fifth annual silent auction to raise money for charity, including the nonprofit Athletes Helping Kids in Beverly Hills, Calif. But TicketCity's involvement with the party isn't just about helping kids.

The company paid a "very substantial" amount to Chicago-based Playboy (NYSE: PLA) in the form of cash and Super Bowl tickets, to associate itself with the publishing empire's soiree, TicketCity CEO Randy Cohen says.

The goal: TicketCity wants to team up with companies such as publicly held Playboy "to help legitimize" the ticket brokerage business and help erase "the scalper image," Cohen says.

Playboy says its party will transform a Detroit City Airport hangar into the "Eight Mile High Club" -- complete with "parachute dancing girls, a scorching dance floor, customized airplane snack carts, a sexy newsstand for guests to browse through" and "gorgeous Playmate Jet Bunnies."

Sponsorship deals such as TicketCity's have "come a long way," says Jeff Dudley, president of Sports Marketing Institute LLC in Baltimore, Md., evolving from simple name recognition and brand awareness into "very strategic active marketing."

"It's not a stagnant form of advertising," Dudley says.

But Dudley says a careful match must be made between sponsors and events.

"You want to make sure the image your organization is projecting is closely aligned with the image of the event that you're sponsoring," he says. "That's a big deal."

TicketCity's vice president of marketing, Zach Anderson, says the company is approached about a variety of sponsorship deals and always keeps this in mind: "What can it do for us as a company, and who is it we're going to be associated with?"

He says TicketCity wanted to be involved with Playboy's yearly Super Bowl affair because of its high profile. Plus, with the charity aspect, "it's more than just a party," he says.

"We wouldn't have pursued it if we thought it would've been perceived incorrectly," Anderson says.

This year's Playboy auction will feature items such as a Rolling Stones-autographed guitar and tickets to Hugh Hefner's MidSummer Night's Dream Party at the Playboy Mansion. Last year's auction was at an aquatic-themed Playboy party in Jacksonville, Fla., attended by actor Owen Wilson, singer Nick Lachey and comedian Chris Rock, among others. It raised more than $100,000.

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