Meanwhile, the CAA's local member, Towson University, is negotiating with Linthicum-based credit union SECU on a naming-rights deal for the school's new Tiger Arena, a $70 million project, according to university officials. SECU officials could not be reached for comment.

Towson's athletic department chipped in $6,000 for signs throughout the building to entice sponsors. That advertising revenue would help fill a budget deficit that led the university to move to cut the men's soccer and baseball programs this spring. Baseball has since been saved.

In downtown Baltimore, 1st Mariner Arena is looking to sell its naming rights at a significant increase from the $75,000 per year it received from 1st Mariner Bank from 2002 until last year. Officials from Legends Sales and Marketing, which is handling the sale, declined to comment on the buyer search.

The University of Maryland will likely widen its sponsorship search in the coming years to take advantage of the move to the Big Ten. The conference's footprint will include New York, Washington and Chicago, making its teams more enticing to advertisers.

Events that travel to Baltimore intermittently also need sponsorship support. M&T Bank Stadium will host the Army-Navy football game in 2014 and 2016, and has moved to host more college football games. State officials are preparing a bid to secure future NCAA lacrosse championships, as well.

And the LPGA, which will host its International Crown event at Caves Valley Golf Club next year, is hoping to augment ticket sales and other revenue with sponsorships.

"There's no question we need the support of the local business community to truly consider this a success," said Rich Thomas, the tournament director.

Established events like the Preakness and Baltimore Running Festival also are looking for more support from sponsors. The Preakness came close to landing Constellation Energy Group as a title sponsor several years ago for more than $1 million, Chuckas said, but the deal fell apart. Constellation officials could not be reached for comment.

"From the Jockey Club's perspective, we'd love to have a title sponsor," Chuckas said. "Any money we can bring in through corporate partnerships improves our event and helps us keep the cost to our customers low."

Both the Preakness and the Running Festival, which includes the Baltimore Marathon, are bolstered by ties to one of the region's most successful companies — and most aggressive marketers. Under Armour is the primary sponsor for the Baltimore Running Festival and, along with affiliate Sagamore Racing, annually finances the most lavish tent in the Pimlico Race Course infield for the Preakness.

Under Armour also invests heavily with the area's most marketable brand, paying an undisclosed amount to have the Ravens' headquarters dubbed the Under Armour Performance Center.

An affiliation with the Orioles or Ravens is attractive to a wide range of businesses. Those teams reach hundreds of thousands of engaged fans, most of whom grew up rooting for Baltimore sports teams and remain emotionally invested in them.

But the price for affiliating with those organizations excludes many companies.

M&T Bank was new to the market in 2003 when it agreed to pay an average of $5 million per year to put its name on the Ravens stadium. That deal ends in 2018, and the Ravens may be due for a raise; the San Francisco 49ers agreed to a deal with Levi's in May that will net $220 million over 11 years.

Less expensive opportunities do exist. The Orioles offer companies the chance to buy anything from signs behind the plate to sleeves on turnstiles.

Not that the Orioles and Ravens have it easy. Their markets are crowded by nearby teams in D.C. and Philadelphia, lessening their appeal to national and regional companies — which have countless other marketing opportunities throughout the Mid-Atlantic — and pushing them to seek local support.

Donald C. Fry, who has been a driving force behind efforts to build a new arena downtown, sees Under Armour's emergence as a reason to believe Baltimore will be able to grow as a sports destination.

"It's not like it used to be in Baltimore, that's true," said Fry, who also serves as president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, an association of local businesses. "But I think you're just seeing evolution. New companies are filling in where old ones left, and they're invested in the community."

Sponsorship has evolved into the most important way for a brand to reach consumers, according to Jason Belzer, a sports attorney and founder of Global Athlete Management Enterprises, a marketing agency working with college coaches and sports properties. Simply buying advertising time on television, radio or in newspapers fails to reach a fragmented audience.

"It's much more important for companies to find a unique way to integrate with teams and events to make sure their message is being heard," he said.

The Grand Prix's Bell said she targeted Esskay — known for its hot dogs — and Maryland Live because of the strategic tie-ins. Esskay will sponsor the kids' zone, while the casino's sponsorship will be aimed at making it clear to visitors that there's another entertainment option available 15 miles down the road after the race.

Sponsorship deals, in turn, help raise the profile of sporting events and venues, said Conway, the Georgetown professor. The most successful ones are able to craft deals with a wide range of companies, not just those that are a natural fit.

"It's important for an event or team or venue to become a real part of the community in a significant way, not just the ways that immediately make the most sense," he said. "That broadens the appeal and ability to generate revenue. That's the way to measure success."

chris.korman@baltsun.com

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