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Attila the Hun or Kermit the Frog?

Steve DeLay's picture

Those are two options that the future employees might have felt about me.

You see, we bought nine minor league teams during my time with Mandalay Baseball Properties. I was usually the first face that the employees of these teams got to see.

It would only be natural if some might have wondered about their job security. After all, was I going to line them up against the wall and fire them one by one? Or, was I going to be a passive manager, pat them on the head and catch the next plane out of town?

I did neither. No firings. No quick trip out of town. I was there to change the culture with the people that we inherited. The first change was tickets. To get us up and running, I usually brought in a salesperson from one of our other teams who already knew our stuff. That person would lead us to a big increase in ticket sales. (See how by clicking here:

The other major change was in sponsorship sales. All the teams we acquired had sponsorship sales in the area of $300,000 to $900,000. We wanted to ramp that up to $2,000,000 to $4,000,000+.

We couldn’t get those increases with just a crazy raising of prices. Can you imagine the reaction a sponsor would have if we took the same sponsorship and raised the price from $40,000 to $150,000 or even from $10,000 to $25,000? Hah! We’d get hurt being tossed that far out of the sponsor’s office!

So, how did we get headed in the direction of increasing sponsorship revenue by 300% or more without of a wild raise of prices?

To get us heading in the right direction, we kept a lot of the same-old same-old for awhile, but we introduced new sponsorship packages. Besides being new, these packages had to be exciting. Our benchmark of excitement was when the sponsor said "Wow!" .


Let me give an example. Let’s look at the Scranton/Wilkes Barre minor league baseball team. When Mandalay acquired the team in 2007, they were doing $650,000 in sponsorship revenue. They were playing in a 20+ year old stadium and the economy was in tatters.

They had a bunch of scoreboard signs, but they didn’t have any signs on their outfield fence. Sure, we could have just slapped up a bunch of six or eight foot long signs on the wall but remember, we wanted to have the sponsor say "Wow!"

Instead of a bunch of small signs, we put together a package that would include a 90-foot outfield fence sign. It also included a 90-foot second deck fascia sign. Talk about exciting. Because of the size of the signs, we limited this package to just four sponsors, and we charged $149,000 for each one. That gave us almost $600,000 in new business. That alone nearly doubled our sponsorship sales in one season.

We also negotiated the right the sell the naming rights of the stadium. Add almost $400,000 more to sponsorship revenue. So, without disrupting what the team had been doing, we nearly tripled our sponsorship revenue from the season before.

The next season, we added some more new stuff. Eventually, all the new stuff replaced all the old stuff, but at far more revenue.


Some execs scoff that there’s nothing new out there. Wrong. Not only are there new packages, there are also new prospects to call on.

We made a lot of sponsorship dollars selling to companies that most teams never call on. I’m talking about the big manufacturing plant in the area or the company that has no retail product but calls on other companies in the area. We called them non-traditional sponsors and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars to them.

If you’re with an established team, and need to rapidly increase sponsorship revenue but don’t want to risk your current packages, you should consider doing what we did.

Take something new—something that creates a WOW — and sell it at a higher price than you’re used to. It wouldn’t be disruptive to what you’re doing, and it could double your sponsorship revenue in a blink. And, start focusing on non-traditional sponsors that aren't your typical advertisers.

It usually took us about three seasons to reach these outrageous revenue goals from sponsorships. It’s done by adding one new thing at a time without disrupting the status quo and also calling on non-traditional sponsor prospects with products designed specifically for them. To see more about this, click

In The Ultimate Toolkit—Sponsorships, you’d even be able to download ready-made sponsorship proposals featuring new packages. You’d then just tweak them to fit your team and be selling these new packages tomorrow.

So, did I turn out to be Attila the Hun or Kermit the Frog? Neither. If you asked those employees from the teams we purchased they probably think of me as a Professor. I taught them some new things, things that made them more successful.

Steve DeLay is co-author with Jon Spoelstra of "The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House" and "The Ultimate Toolkit - Sponsorships", complete strategy, tactics and training systems for tickets and sponsorships being used by more than 160 teams around the country. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeLay2.

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