Mohegan Sun Feeds Media with Barter Deal

8 Jul

The Connecticut Sun, one of 12 teams in the Women’s National Basketball Association, has  partnered with local restaurants in a bartering agreement that trades catering for promotion and sponsorships. The eight eateries in the agreement will provide food for the Connecticut Sun’s media room in exchange for in-game PA announcements and other perks.

The arena is situated within the giant Mohegan Sun facility in Uncasville, Conn., a casino and lifestyle center which includes 20 to 30 restaurants, a 9,500-seat arena and a hotel, with 10 million visitors annually.

The Connecticut Sun began experimenting with this new marketing strategy last year. This year, eight restaurants (including Starbucks, Big Bubba BBQ, Lucky Lounge, Geno’s Fastbreak Pub, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Dubliner, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletano, and Summer Shack) are all taking turns providing food for the sports media that cover 17 Sun’s home games. This media includes approximately 25 writers, photographers and TV personnel depending on opponent and general interest in the game. The restaurants also decorate the press suite and print out a fact sheet about their menu. Margaritaville promotions coordinator Amanda Allen estimates that the media room sponsorship requires approximately $1,000 worth of food. In compensation for that service, the restaurant is able to record a PA announcement to be played during the WNBA game.

Depending on the level of sponsorship, a restaurant could receive further promotion within the venue. Prices vary between $3,000 and $8,000 per game and might include a giveaway during time-outs, or giving gift certificates to the winners of free-throw contests. Restaurants always hand out flyers or coupons to fans leaving the arena.

One of the restaurants sponsoring the media suite for two games, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, previously opened up the restaurant for the Connecticut Mohegan Sun draft. During the draft, Margaritaville allowed season ticket holders to eat complimentary from a limited menu — and the restaurant always gives discounts to WNBA Connecticut Sun season ticket holders and keeps copies of the team’s schedule available.

“We actually have noticed, especially the night of the game, that more of the fans are coming in,” said Allen of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.

Utilizing the arena allows the restaurants to have more of a presence within the community; after all, Allen points out, most fans are locals. Though the team’s General Manager, Chris Sienko, said that other sponsor monetary deals with the destination’s restaurants are in place, but they have nothing to do with this particular media suite promotional agreement.

“It’s a purely barter system. We do have some other arrangements with restaurants which do involve dollars. But that’s not directly tied to this program,” Sienko said. “Geno’s will provide us food and product for the media room and we’ll promote them in the arena, but we also have another deal with Geno’s where they pay us money to be a sponsor for the team, which has other benefits like our t-shirt launcher which shoots about 20 t-shirts at a time. Geno’s sponsors that.”

For participating restaurants, the promotion is a chance to get their message heard in front of a captive audience.

“We have a Loyalty Card Program which allows season ticket holders to actually get discounts at a lot of these restaurants as well. So we promote them in game in arena to our audiences, which average about 7,200 to 7,500 per game, if not more,” Sienko said.

Because they give away coupons at the games, Margaritaville has been able to track the return on their barter investment and has seen many Suns fans utilize their coupon on days when no game occurred. — Jessica Boudevin

Interviewed for this article: Chris Sienko, (860) 862-4061; Amanda Allen, (860) 862-3410

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