WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – As members root, root, root for their home team, credit unions are hitting marketing homeruns. With its small ballparks and low prices, minor-league baseball games have become the latest “hotspot” for family fun and over the past 15 years, the number of fans attending has doubled to nearly 38 million. “It’s different. People watch these teams play good quality baseball and you never know who you might see-future stars or a major leaguer rehabilitating,” said Tri-Co Federal Credit Union Vice President of Marketing Jim Dufford. “There are also activities going on constantly during any break in action- from baby races to drawings for prizes. It is just exciting, good fun.” The Morris Plains, New Jersey-based credit union recently became a major sponsor of the NJ Cardinals, a Short Season Class A Minor League affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Given the popularity of the team among locals, when the $88 million credit union opened a branch in Augusta, which is only a half mile from Skylands Park, it made sense to sponsor not only a large billboard, skybox seats but also giveaway nights and even a batting glove day. Over 2,500 batting gloves were distributed to all children attending a game against the Brooklyn Cyclones, a NY Mets affiliate. “This is our way of giving back to the community,” said Dufford. “It’s good for the economy up there in Sussex County, and we also try to make the box seats available to different groups like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Sussex County Association for Retarded Citizens and the Association for Retired Citizens. We do our best to get tickets in the hands of our members.” Minor league games are not just about nostalgia for the good old days of baseball, they also pack a lot of marketing bang. Tri-Co CU has already added 60 area businesses in Sussex County alone. Last year, the Round Rock Express Dell Diamond Park set an AA attendance record with 660,100 tickets sold. Recently, Austin, Texas-based United Heritage Credit Union has established its own presence in the ballpark by lending its name to the 10,000 square-foot convention center. Ever since relocating from Vancouver, the Sacramento River Cats, a Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s, has been a major crowd pleaser. Entering its second season at Raley Field, this year’s total sales are already hitting 750,000 with first-day ticket sales 25% ahead of last year. A major team sponsor from the beginning, The Golden 1 Credit Union not only has its name on the main scoreboard and is one of only five sponsors displayed on two additional scoreboards above first and second base but it also has such perks as exclusive ATM rights; an affinity card VISA and a booth to sign up members for the affinity card; use of a suite twice a year; and a number of seats available for each game. According to The Golden 1 CU President/CEO Stan Hollen the multi-year agreement, which costs well above $200,000, is well worth it. With the games broadcast over English and Spanish radio stations and 14 games televised, the $3 billion credit union has a visibility, image and community involvement combination that can’t be beat. But baseball clubs are not the only way for CUs to get in the game. Alaska USA Federal Credit Union recently sponsored a team in the first Armed Forces Eco-Challenge. The team participated in memory of the crew of Yukla 27, an E-3 Sentry that crashed when a flock of Canadian geese fouled the engines shortly after takeoff. All 24 crew members aboard died-some were credit union members. The Eco-Challenge benefited the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which supports military families that have lost a member as a result of military duty. Credit union members followed the team’s progress and gave daily updates. Out of 22 teams, TeamAlaska USA placed seventh. Any other credit unions ready to play? [email protected]

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