Las Vegas Events, the nonprofit that recruits, promotes and organizes events in the Sin City market, paid $75,000 to sponsor the recent NBA Summer League and also invested resources as a partner in putting on this week’s USA Basketball event in Las Vegas.
Is that money and resources well spent?
Pat Christenson believes so.
Christenson, president of the 30-year-old event promotion organization, said the value of the national media attention focused on the NBA Summer League was worth five times what his agency spent on the $75,000 sponsorship.
He noted Las Vegas was getting free publicity when the NBA’s own TV network was broadcasting the summer league’s 61 games and ESPN’s SportsCenter show was originating from Thomas & Mack Center several days last week.
Christenson also said Las Vegas Events began the first year of a four-year agreement to be a partner of USA Basketball, which runs the country’s national basketball team, for mini-camp workouts and a practice game at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The Review-Journal asked Christenson several times how much his organization is spending on USA Basketball, and he responded by saying it’s a break-even deal for Las Vegas Events.
Compared to sponsoring the NBA Summer League, Las Vegas Events has a more direct role in USA Basketball. For example, it’s managing the training camp transportation. Several dozen NBA players, a small cadre of coaches and USA Basketball staffers are in town for this week’s workout event.
You want your city to host big-time professional sports events and attract celebrity sports figures? Then your city and local organizations such as Las Vegas Events have to pay to play.
Las Vegas Events’ 2011 Internal Revenue Service documents show the $75,000 NBA Summer League sponsorship is hardly a major cash expenditure compared to previous payments to groups staging sports and entertainment events in Las Vegas. Consider these Las Vegas Events cash payments, according to the IRS form 990 filed by Las Vegas Events last year:
■ $850,000 for NASCAR banquet
■ $450,000 to Fremont Street Experience
■ $389,232 to Mountain West Conference
■ $325,000 to USA Sevens Rugby
■ $250,000 to Las Vegas Marathon
■ $250,000 to Electric Daisy Carnival
■ $200,000 to Academy of Country Music
■ $200,000 to Laughlin Concert
■ $161,000 to Score off-road racing
■ $131,400 to National Long Drive Championships
■ $125,000 to Dew Vegas 150
In all, Las Vegas Events cash grants totaled about $6.2 million out of total revenues of about $20.1 million, according to the federal 990 form. Las Vegas Events gets money from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and event/ticket revenue.
Regarding the NBA Summer League and USA Basketball, Christenson stated the Las Vegas Events investment is worth it because, he said, the NBA event generated $10.5 million in local spending last year, while USA Basketball generated $5.5 million in spending for a total of $16 million in 2012.
The NBA Summer League games’ attendance hit 62,128, an average of 5,648 per day -- or about a 10 percent increase from 2012, according to Albert Hall, a California sports marketer who handled the summer league’s business operations.
When it comes to economic impact numbers, academic economists often question the validity of sports events’ financial impacts, often criticizing the numbers for being inflated.
But Christenson pointed out July is a good time for the basketball industry to come to Las Vegas because “we’re looking to do more events in the summer.”
Christenson said NBA players are tweeting about their experiences in Las Vegas, which puts Sin City in the spotlight for tourism.
He called the NBA and USA Basketball events “strong signature events” for Las Vegas.
Another USA Basketball partner is Wynn Las Vegas, which is a natural hospitality connection because Steve and Elaine Wynn are close friends of the national basketball team’s coach -- Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski.
Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball chairman, said the players, coaches and staff members are staying at Wynn Las Vegas under a partnership deal that he would only describe as a “strong working relationship.”
Wednesday’s USA Basketball practice attracted a Who’s Who of visitors in the professional basketball world. They included retired NBA star Chris Mullin, an ESPN basketball commentator, who said Las Vegas benefits when the hoops universe comes to Sin City in July.
“The NBA is an incredible marketing machine and a global brand,” Mullin said, in between glances at USA Basketball players practicing in UNLV’s Mendenhall Center.
“The combination of both the NBA Summer League and USA Basketball is unbeatable. This becomes the Olympic team,” Mullin said. “In the month of July, Las Vegas becomes the headquarters for basketball. It’s the hub of the NBA. It fits right in with the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas.”
Former UNLV roundball star Rick Sobers, who had an 11-year NBA career, said USA Basketball creates jobs for arena ushers to people selling NBA gear.
“The world of basketball is here in July at all levels,” said Sobers, who runs youth programs in Las Vegas. “It’s all about the exposure and the continuing process of Las Vegas becoming an international destination.”
Contact reporter Alan Snel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273.