Rightsholders have developed any number of creative ideas to try to attract sponsor revenue during the economic downturn, but a not-so-new tactic could prove to be the offer some prospects can’t refuse.

Guaranteeing a company in-store marketing support by partnering with a retail chain has long been a successful way of enticing new partners or adding value to existing sponsors, and properties are proving it still works.

Case in point: Comcast Spectacor, L.P.—owner of the NBA Philadelphia 76ers, NHL Flyers and their Wachovia Center home—this month rolled out its first vendor-funded retail partnership in concert with drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp. and has brought it a low-six-figure sum through the program.

Comcast Spectacor is negotiating a similar program with at least one other Philly-area chain in another retail category.

Here’s how the partnership works: Comcast Spectacor gave Rite Aid a package of sponsorship benefits and inventory in exchange for the opportunity to sell participation in Rite Aid team-themed promotions to product manufacturers.

Comcast Spectacor added a twist to the typical retail-property relationship by gaining permission from Rite Aid to approach vendors whose products had not previously been sold in the chain’s stores.

The property benefits by keeping the cash fees paid by the product manufacturers. The retailer gains the right to host traffic-building promotions that are supported by team and venue media, as well as by any additional marketing conducted by the participating vendors. The product manufacturers gain promotional rights with popular properties, sponsorship inventory, distribution through a channel partner they had previously been unable to crack, and valuable in-store display and promotion.

“We offer them advertising at the Wachovia Center and placement in 500 Rite Aid Stores. That’s powerful,” said Joe Croce, Comcast Spectacor’s senior vice president of sales.

Croce’s sales team secured 10 vendors, each of which is paying between $14,000 and $40,000, depending on the level of retail marketing support.

For example, the $14,000 package offers “in-line” (mid-aisle) shelf space and promotion, while the $40,000 package offers “end-stand” display. Other packages include “side panels” (of the end-aisle displays) for $22,000 and “center dump” tables for $35,000.

Participating product marketers include CytoSport Inc.’s Muscle Milk; Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s Orange Crush; HealthSpan Solutions, LLC’s BeneVia nutritional supplement beverage; and Skinny Nutritional Corp.’s Skinny Water.

Rite Aid receives ad spots during 76ers and Flyers radio broadcasts, Wachovia Center signage, exposure on the teams’ Web sites, and use of the teams’ names and logos. It does not have category exclusivity. The participating products receive exposure through the Rite Aid inventory.

Once Rite Aid came on board, the Comcast Spectacor scouted potential vendor partners by visiting Acme Markets, Inc. and other area retailers, Croce said.

The property hosted a “vendor fair” last month, in which it pitched the program to reps from the manufacturers, who in turn had a chance to talk up their products to a Rite Aid representative, Croce noted. The retailer had the right to approve all participating vendors.

For more information on constructing joint property-retail deals, see “Shopping For Retail Partners: What Properties Need To Know.”

Rite Aid Signs Second Pro Sports Deal
The NBA New Jersey Nets announced earlier this week that they had signed Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid to a “major strategic alliance” that will include ticket promotions in 65 stores in the New York City area.