January 8th, 2009

Brewers, Potawatomi Announce New Deal

By Don Walker
Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

You used to know them as the Milwaukee Brewers. Now they’re Milwaukee Brewers Baseball presented by Potawatomi Bingo Casino.

In a first for the Brewers’ franchise and for professional sports in Wisconsin, the franchise and the casino announced Thursday a multi-year presenting sponsor partnership that will cover virtually every aspect of Brewers baseball at Miller Park.

Details of the agreement were not released, but it is believed the revenue coming to the Brewers is second only to the Brewers’ naming rights agreement with MillerCoors. MillerCoors pays the Brewers $2.06 million a year for that right.

The Potawatomi name and logo will be evident everywhere: on game tickets, on the 117 Miller Park plaza light poles, on an outfield wall, on the tops of the home and visiting dugouts, and on the rotational signs and LED boards inside the stadium. The casino name will also be repeated endlessly on radio and television.

In announcing the deal, Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers’ executive vice president of business operations, called it a historic agreement.

“We’re very humbled and proud that the Potawatomi has agreed to enter into this relationship,” he said at a press conference at Miller Park.”

Mike Goodrich, the casino’s general manager, said the tribe and the Brewers had “breathed new life into the Menomonee Valley.”

Both organizations, he said, are coming off good years. The Potawatomi finished its $240 million expansion, and the Brewers made the postseason for the first time in 26 years.

A unique deal

“Maybe 10 years ago, I might have a problem with this,” said David Carter, head of the Sports Business Group in southern California, and a sports business professor at the University of Southern California. “It’s not taboo any more.”

Carter said a number of teams have agreements with gambling interests. The Arizona Diamondbacks have a presenting sponsor relationship with the Gila River Indian community.

Schlesinger said the actual agreement was lengthy. The Brewers also had to run the details past Major League Baseball, which is careful about relationships with gambling interests.

In recent years, professional sports leagues and teams have begun striking agreements with gambling interests, but there are still some areas that are forbidden. For instance, the franchise can’t offer a promotion in which fans can use their ticket stubs to go to the casino in exchange for free poker chips. And the players will not be directly involved in the partnership agreement.

Moreover, the Potawatomi casino does not have a sports book, though it does offer simulcast betting on horse and greyhound races around the country.

The deal also gives the Potawatomi an element of exclusivity, in that the Brewers will not be able to sign any other company to a presenting sponsorship for the duration of the agreement.

Although the Potawatomi already had a sponsorship deal with the team, Schlesinger said both sides began talking last summer about a new, more involved relationship. The talks began heating up in December, he said.

“This partnership takes it to a whole new level,” he said.


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