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Companies may cut PSU grid ties


February 16. 2013 2:31PM
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When State Farm Insurance announced it was ending its sponsorship relationship with the Penn State football program in light of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, many thought more sponsors would follow them out the door.


At least two companies with Northeastern Pennsylvania ties are considering the same course.


Dennis Curtin, spokesman for Sunbury-based grocery store chain Weis Markets, would issue only a brief comment on the situation.


‚??We have a sponsorship and are currently reviewing our options,‚?Ě he said.


The 2011 season was the first that Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs served as a sponsor of the storied program and had signage inside Beaver Stadium.


Casino CEO Bobby Soper would neither confirm nor deny that the casino has ended its agreement with the program.


‚??For us it‚??s a business decision, ultimately,‚?Ě Soper said. ‚??It‚??s nothing personal. It‚??s a question of how we allocate marketing dollars. Is it the best use of funds? It‚??s a very objective decision on our part.‚?Ě


When pressed about when he‚??ll say whether the Plains Township casino and horse racing track will stick with the team for another year, Soper said fans may not know until they enter Beaver Stadium Sept. 1 for the first home game.


Dave Phillips, the Pennsylvania spokesman for Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Insurance, said the company ‚??will continue to support NCAA football as we have for years. However, State Farm will not directly support Penn State football this year.‚?Ě The company‚??s decision became public two weeks ago.


In the past, State Farm aired radio ads during Penn State football games.


‚??We don‚??t have plans to return to radio this year for Penn State football,‚?Ě Phillips said.


Consumer reaction at stake

Patrick Rishe, an economics professor at Webster University in St. Louis and the director of Sportsimpacts, a sports market research firm, said companies like State Farm and Mohegan Sun have to ask themselves: ‚??Will our brand being associated with PSU conjure negative reaction from consumers? If so, you must bail if you‚??re the company.‚?Ě


Rishe noted companies ‚??are in business to make money,‚?Ě so it‚??s tough to ‚??fault them for being risk-averse.‚?Ě


John Mellon, a professor of business and marketing at Misericordia University in Dallas Township, said he cannot see many, if any, reasons for a sponsor to remain with the Penn State football program.


‚??I would not hesitate to drop Penn State based solely on the situation,‚?Ě Mellow, of Butler Township, said.


He said the negatives outweigh the positives and in the corporate world, any negativity is bad for business.


He noted one cliché that he believes rings true in this case.


‚??When you have a positive experience, you tell one or two people. When you have a negative experience, you tell 10 or 12.‚?Ě


No response from PSU

A request for a list of 2011 football sponsors and a request seeking which of those informed the school of their intentions for 2012 sponsorship was made to Gregory J. Myford, Penn State‚??s associate athletic director for business relations and communications.


He directed questions to Greg Brown, chief executive officer of Learfield Sports, the rights holder of Penn State Athletics‚?? sponsorship agreements. Brown did not respond to a request for information Wednesday.




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