As Real Estate Market Improves, Brokers Turn to Sports Sponsorships

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On yard signs in the Dallas area, Century 21 Judge Fite signs sport the iconic star of the NFL’s Cowboys.  At Yankee Stadium, the logo of Halstead Property appears above the baseball team’s ondeck circle.  At Yankee Stadium, the logo of Halstead Property appears above the baseball team’s ondeck circle.

At the spring training home of the Baltimore Orioles, agents from Michael Saunders & Co. staff a booth aimed at pitching properties to out-of-state visitors.  And at the arena of the Pittsburgh Penguins, hockey fans see signs touting Northwood Realty.

After a half-decade of retrenchment following the housing crash, real estate brokers once again are investing in high dollar sponsorship deals with pro teams.  Amid intensifying competition for agents and clients, aligning with a big-league team can add credibility to a company’s marketing pitch.

Century 21 Judge Fite recently renewed a four-year sponsorship deal with the Dallas Cowboys.  Chief Executive Jim Fite says the deal gives the company the right to use the Cowboys’ color and logo on business cards, yard signs, and its website.

“We are fortunate enough to be the official Realtor of the No. 1 team in sports,” Fite says. “It’s just a huge name recognition advantage.” Fite declines to disclose the cost of the deal, but he hints that it’s a significant sum. Even so, he thinks it’s worth it.  TheCowboys command nearly religious devotion in Dallas-Fort Worth, and aligning with the team confers instant legitimacy in a way that’s even more palpable than the company’s eight-decade track record.

“Other Realtors are jealous,” Fite says.  “We’ve been able to recruit agents who say, ‘If [Cowboys owner Jerry Jones]
believes in you, I do, too.’”  In the case of Halstead Property’s deal with the Yankees, the company enters the 2017 season as “the Official Luxury Residential Real Estate Firm of the New York Yankees.”

That means Halstead’s logo appears above the Yankees on-deck circle and on television screens placed throughout Yankee Stadium.  As part of the sponsorship deal, the Yankees renamed the Third Base Champions Lounge.  The area for premium seat holders now is known as the Halstead Lounge.

The Yankees and Halstead also will work together to raise money for Halstead Helping Hands, the brokerage firm’s philanthropic arm.  Yankees players will appear at charity events, and the team will donate tickets and autographed memorabilia.  “Halstead is incredibly proud to partner with the Yankees, a brand synonymous style, power, confidence and success,” says Matthew Leone, Halstead’s chief marketing officer.

Possible downside?

One potentially touchy subject: The Yankees are beloved by their own fans but hated by everyone else, raising the possibility of alienating fans of the crosstown Mets, not to mention transplants from Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit.  The Cowboys engender similar feelings in football fans, and Dallas is a city filled with natives of other parts of the country.

But Fite says Cowboys hatred is a non-issue.  “In three years, I can count on one hand the number of people who have said, ‘Don’t put that Cowboys star on our yard sign,’” Fite says.  It’s easy enough to remove the Cowboys star from yard signs, and in one instance, a listing agent talked a Cowboys hater into leaving the logo on, Fite says.

In Sarasota, FL, Michael Saunders’ sponsorship of the Orioles’ spring training is as much about civic pride as support for the Orioles, who moved to town from Fort Lauderdale in 2010.  Drayton Saunders, president of the 650-agent company, compares the March games to floor time.  Agents need not be fans of the Orioles, but they must be willing to schmooze the team’s fans from Maryland and the Washington, DC,
area.
Saunders declined to disclose the value of the three-year partnership.  “Any sponsorship really takes a multiyear commitment,” Saunders says.  “It’s been a great partnership so far.”  For the 1,000-agent Northwood Realty, now a sponsor of the NHL’s Penguins, the sponsorship includes dasherboards, LED ribbons, and backlit signs.  Fans also see and hear Northwood’s name online and in radio broadcasts.

Northwood also gets an interactive kiosk in the lobby of the Penguins’ training facility.  The kiosk features MLS
listings and information about Northwood’s agents.  The sponsorship deal also offers legitimacy to Northwood’s “Hockey Mom of the Year” contest.  The brokerage came up with the award on its own, but now the prize carries the stamp of the 2016 Stanley Cup champions.

Unlike other consumer brands, residential real estate brokers tend to delve cautiously into sports sponsorships. Century 21 has bought ads during the Super Bowl, and RE/MAX once sponsored Major League Baseball’s home run derby.  But those arrangements tended to be fleeting.

Connecting to the Community

It was rare for real estate brokers to announce sports marketing deals in recent years, but now that the housing market has returned to health, such initiatives have grown more common.  “The biggest advantage is a connection to the community, and greater relevance in a particular market,” says Scott Becher, a sports marketing consultant who did not work with any of the brokers.  Becher offers one caution: You shouldn’t expect that because you’re a
sponsor, your agents will land listings when millionaire players sell their mansions.  Costs vary widely, Becher says, depending on what’s included in a sponsorship deal.

At Century 21 Judge Fite, the sponsorship with the Cowboys has created something beyond name recognition.  The team also has reminded the company of the importance of high-level customer service.  For instance, when Century 21 Judge Fite celebrated its 80th year in business, Cowboys owner Jones recorded a video message of congratulations to be played at a company event.  He also sent Fite a signed football marking the milestone.

On other occasions, the Cowboys have invited Fite to play at the team golf course or granted access to a luxury suite at the stadium.  “Underpromising and overdelivering— the Cowboys have that down to a science,” Fite says. “Jerry Jones taught us to overdeliver.”

This article originally appeared in the May issue of Real Estate Broker’s Insider newsletter.

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Real Estate Professional Login (c) 2017 CENTURY 21 Judge Fite Company. CENTURY 21® and the CENTURY 21 Logo are registered service marks owned by Century 21 Real Estate LLC. Equal Housing Opportunity. Each office is independently owned and operated. Member of the Cartus Worldwide Relocation Network. This office is independently owned and operated. Century 21 Real Estate LLC has no involvement in and does not endorse or otherwise sponsor the Dallas Cowboys.

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