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March 6, 2004




Shortly before a recent Miami Heat basketball game, the NASDAQ-100 Open tennis tournament set up a makeshift court on the plaza behind AmericanAirlines Arena overlooking Biscayne Bay. That and this report from The Sun Sentinel's Sarah Talalay


Tennis stars Amanda Coetzer and Vince Spadea, scheduled to play in the March 24-April 4 annual tournament on Key Biscayne, stopped by for a playful match captured by local media. Heat dancers, Florida Marlins broadcaster Len Kasper, NBC-6 personalities, and Indy Racing League driver Helio Castroneves, who finished second in this past Sunday's Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, also joined them.



On Tuesday, PGA Tour members, including Phil Mickelson, playing in this week's Ford Championship at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa, put down their clubs and headed to Homestead to take a turn in a Ford GT and a stock car. Ford is also the title sponsor of November's Ford Championship Weekend, the NASCAR Nextel Cup series finale. NASCAR drivers Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth and others will help show them the ropes.


South Florida's sports teams and events haven't always been so chummy. But with a fickle fan market and difficult economy, they're cross-promoting more often, sharing each other's mailing lists, choice seats and publicity stunts.


"If we can work together to introduce our products to more people, there's enough consumers to go around," said Adam Barrett, NASDAQ-100 Open tournament director. "People are looking for good entertainment. If you deliver it, you can make it so they want to come out to more events, not just tennis, not just basketball, not just racing."


The NASDAQ-100 Open event did more than provide a scenic backdrop to promote tennis and the IRL race. The athletes became part of that night's basketball crowd.


"We like to promote Heat games as a hip place to be. Celebrities like to watch our games," said Michael McCullough, Heat executive vice president. "Having professional golfers and tennis players here only increases the cachet."


And the Heat hopes it brings more attention to their sport, by teaming up with annual events that draw lots of attention. Previously, the Heat sponsored an IRL car at Homestead.


The Heat, who took dancers to interact with baseball fans at Marlins games last summer, and the Panthers honored the Marlins for their World Series championship. The World Series trophy will be included in a special event on March 27 at the NASDAQ-100 Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center. The timing helps the Marlins who open their season April 6.


"We want to combat the stigma that South Florida is not a great sports fan town," said Sean Flynn, Marlins vice president of marketing. "I think the relationships are only going to get stronger as we continue to look at ways to work together. I think we're all fishing from the same pond and all talking to the same people."


In consumer product sales, it might be akin to selling pretzels with beer or granola with yogurt.


"The sports teams and events in South Florida used to view each other as competitors, to a certain extent they still are, but I think they all now realize that their true competition is other forms of entertainment," said Scott Becher, president of South Beach-based Sports & Sponsorships. "They're competing for the entertainment dollar, when talking to ticket buyers."


The way executives see it, combining efforts enhances everyone's product. The NASDAQ-100 Open has shared e-mail lists with the Heat, offering, for example, its suite holders pre-sale tickets to concerts at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Ford Championship at Doral has shared tickets with teams, and brought golfers to Heat and Panthers games. The Marlins set up a sponsor tent at last year's Doral.


"Every sports team can help each other," said Tom Neville, director of the Ford Championship at Doral. "For us [the golfers visiting Homestead] it's a terrific opportunity. It gives the players something to talk about it."


And Ford Division executives hope it will entice more golfers to Doral for future tournaments. Ford held a smaller event at Homestead last year, but has expanded it, said Steve Lyons, Ford Division president.


"This year it's going to be a little more fun, little more competitive," Lyons said. "I think word's gotten around that they'll have a chance to drive our NASCAR car, as well as the new Ford GT."


What the relationships could also lead to is broader and more intricate sponsorship deals, Becher said.


"All the teams and events find themselves knocking on the same doors for sponsors and I think they're realizing since there are so few sponsorship dollars to go around, it may be more effective for them to run together," Becher said. "I think the next step is you'll see teams working together to develop more impactful sponsorship opportunities for local marketers. I think that's the next step -- you have to have the right people, if not, there has to be a lot of trust and complementary assets, but I think that's very much in the near future." That and this report from The Sun Sentinel's Sarah Talalay

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