Imagine you’re Coca-Cola and you bought a sponsorship at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and one day you see Pepsi signage at the arena.
Or maybe you’re Budweiser and your beer is poured at Yankee Stadium and one day you see Miller Lite signs around the ballpark.
Now you know how Bill Butier, president of Las Vegas-based Access Health Dental, felt when strolling around Cashman Field, where his company has paid a “significant” amount of money to be a dental sponsor of the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team. Butier noted Access Health even provided dental care to a few 51s players and his company’s outfield wall sign says it’s the official dentist of the 51s.
A day before Big League Weekend in mid-March, when the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs played two preseason games at Cashman, Butier was checking his company signs at the ballpark when he was startled by another sponsor sign.
A sign advertising another dental company, Smile Generation, was posted in the outfield. Butier said no one at the 51s had informed him that the team had signed a second dental sponsor.
“To say we were disappointed would be accurate,” Butier recalled. “I’m still a little confused about the evolution of that relationship.”
What’s unusual about this case is that the dental sponsor category is not a popular sponsor category in professional sports, said Scott Becher, former owner of a South Florida sports sponsorship company who is executive vice president/managing director of Zimmerman Advertising in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“Just having one sponsor in the dental category is an eye-opener,” Becher said. “The idea of having two is unusual.”
Professional sports teams sign sponsors to generate revenue, and sometimes companies will pay at an exclusivity level to gain sole control of a particular category. Exclusivity allows a sponsor to not compete against another company in the same category for eyeballs and attention at the venue.
In this case, Butier said there was no exclusivity in his sponsorship deal with the 51s. He said he didn’t think Access Health needed one.
“The thought was that we didn’t need one because of the relationship we had been building with the 51s,” Butier said.
The 51s have dozens of sponsors, including some in the same category. For example, multiple casinos are sponsors, and there are at least two different insurance companies that are 51s sponsors. But in those cases, the companies in the same category usually have distinct specialties, niches or geographic turfs, Becher said.
In the case of the dental category having both Access Health Dental and Smile Generation, “What niches are they going to have? Molars and bicuspids?” Becher said.
Don Logan, 51s president, said Access Health does not have exclusivity in the dental category because “you have to pay at an exclusivity level.”
Logan said the 51s want to be help all its sponsors and “are not in the position to say no” if a company wants to be a sponsor in a category that doesn’t have an exclusive sponsor. Smile Generation approached the 51s and signed up this past year, he said.
“We want to be as helpful as possible for everybody who spends money on us. We want them to be happy,” Logan said.
Smile Generation could not be reached for comment.
Becher said the notion that two dental companies are sponsors at the same ballpark “talks of the importance of exclusivity when sponsoring a team. The value of the sponsorship is distinguishing your company from competition because of your association with the team. Now, people might get confused over having two dental companies.”
Butier said he discussed the matter with 51s General Manager Chuck Johnson and recalled that Johnson “was a bit apologetic, not that he can change anything.”
Butier did say the 51s added some value to his sponsorship after he brought up the issue of a second dental company having a sign and an exhibitor table at the ballpark. But he added, “Is it fully compensated? I don’t know.”
Contact reporter Alan Snel as email@example.com or 702-387-5273. Follow Snel at @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.