While sports, festivals and other types of properties have long wined and dined potential sponsors at their events, the recent experience of one rightsholder recommends enhancing those opportunities to attract and whet the interest of prospects.

NASCAR team owner Roush Fenway Racing earlier this year hosted its first baseball fantasy camp to introduce itself to new prospective partners. The team developed the camp in conjunction with the MLB Boston Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group, the agency established by Sox owner John Henry and which owns 50 percent of Roush Fenway.

The race team is looking for new partners in part because some of the primary sponsors on its cars are looking to sell some of their inventory to offset costs.

“Some of our Sprint Cup sponsors, namely Aflac, 3M, Dewalt and Crown Royal, are willing to sell some of the races if it makes sense,” said Robin Johnson, Roush Fenway’s executive vice president of business development.

“We were talking to Fenway Sports Group, and asking how we could get more meetings with sponsorship decision-makers and C-level officers in a casual environment where there’s no hard sell.”

Looking to provide a spouse- and child-friendly atmosphere to which the team could invite prospects and their families, the two organizations developed the baseball fantasy camp idea, rather than offer hospitality at NASCAR races, where children are restricted from certain track areas and where there are less interactive experiences for them.

“A CEO of one of our present partners had said to me, “If I can find things to do with my friends and children, I’m usually willing to listen,” said Johnson, noting that kids can run the bases and participate in other activities at the camp.

“Baseball is more familiar to a lot of people than NASCAR, and it’s a slow game with a lot of down time.”

The team hosted the camp in March at the Red Sox spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. Attendees were treated to two games, took batting practice under the instruction of former Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, received behind-the-scenes tours of City of Palms Park, a chat with Camping World Truck Series driver Colin Braun and other perks.

Although representatives from only a handful of the 100 companies that were invited attended the event, the invitation itself proved to be enough to open up a dialogue with roughly 50 of the prospects, Johnson said in ruling the program a success.

Moving forward, the team plans to expand its use of baseball by inviting potential partners to Red Sox road games in their areas. Roush Fenway also plans to invite representatives from existing corporate partners whose companies are based in the same market.

“One of our best sales tools is testimonials and case studies from present sponsors. What better way is there to hear about a sponsorship opportunity than from an existing partner?” Johnson said.

While most properties do not have the financial wherewithal or relationships to duplicate Roush Fenway’s effort, rightsholders should try to develop unique hospitality programs that take advantage of the experiences they can offer.

“With the difficult economy, it’s important to come up with new ways to get in front of people,” Johnson noted.