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FRISCO, Texas – How does a credit union build awareness, and ultimately, membership in a county where it has not had a strong presence before? Texans Credit Union hopes it is by stepping to the plate as a promotional sponsor for the Frisco RoughRiders, the new minor league double-A baseball franchise that’s coming to town. Jim Bryan, Texans’ president and CEO, thinks partnering with the RoughRiders is a natural for the $1.1 billion credit union. Texans has 145,000 members with 85% of them living in Collin County and the northern suburbs surrounding the $23 million ballpark currently under construction. “In a way, credit unions and minor league baseball are in the same business. Ask any member what they like about Texans Credit Union and the answer will include our family atmosphere and reasonably priced, professional service,” Bryan said. “It’s the same thing with minor league baseball. Their business is to create a wholesome environment for families and Collin County businesses with reasonably priced family entertainment. We help the family manage their financial affairs so they can enjoy the finer things in life – like taking the kids to a baseball game.” Texans will be one of only eight “dominant identity” sponsors – the only financial institution – at the team’s new ballpark. Promotional signage at the stadium is exclusive to these eight sponsors. In addition, dominant identity sponsors will receive: the franchise’s support on one promotion per year, two 60-second radio spots during each of the 140 season games, and advertising on ticket backs for five games. While labeling the financial investment “significant,” the credit union has done its homework and is confident it will reap sizeable benefits in name recognition and new members. Approximately 700,000 fans are expected to attend RoughRiders games each year, and credit union data suggests that 90% will be eligible for membership at Texans. Tim McCoy, Texans business development manager, was responsible for forging the partnership between the credit union and Frisco Professional Baseball (FPB). Charged with finding a community event for the credit union to associate with in this high-growth area north of Dallas, he started sniffing out rumors of several sports teams building facilities in the county. When the initial press conference was held to announce FPB’s plans in Frisco, McCoy made it a point to connect with FPB president Mike McCall. “I knew that the early bird gets the worm, and I feared that some other financial institution would beat us out,” McCoy said. “I just handed him my business card and said, `Don’t take us lightly. I don’t know if you know what credit unions are or who Texans Credit Union is, but we’re very interested in discussing sponsorship opportunities. Call when you have a few minutes to talk.’” FPB did contact McCoy and explained the dominant identity sponsorship concept as well as the team’s lower-level “play ball” sponsorships. Play ball sponsors get a single game program identity, but Texans, according to McCoy, was looking for something bigger. Kevin Rochlitz, FPB’s senior vice president, was hired to duplicate what he had done in his previous job with the Dayton Dragons minor league team, said McCoy. And that was to sell out every game during the team’s first two seasons. Part of Rochlitz’ successful strategy was maximizing the investment for a limited number of sponsors. Fifth Third Bank, the dominant identity financial sponsor in Dayton, Ohio, told Texans its partnership with the Dragons has been very positive. In fact, all of the sponsors renewed their three-year contracts before they expired. The bank also deemed “wildly successful” a promotion supported by the Dragons in which the bank gave away an exclusive Dayton Dragons jacket to anyone taking out a loan of $15,000 or more. “Rochlitz has an impressive track record, and that with a single-A team,” said McCoy. “Hopefully it will be even easier with more talented players and the team’s backing by Mandalay Sports Entertainment and Southwest Sports Group, which also operates the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars.” But McCoy spent several months pulling together demographics and information concerning other alternatives before making the commitment to the RoughRiders. Clear-cut comparisons were not readily available. University FCU and United Heritage CU in Austin, Texas, sponsor the Houston Astros’ double-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express, but sponsorship is open to dozens of businesses at a much lower price tag. “Who will attend these games relative to our field of membership? As it turns out, these games have a broad appeal to both men and women, young and old. They’re looked at more as an event than as a sporting event,” said McCoy. “We found that 90% of the people attending the games will probably come from Collin County. This compares with 40% projected to attend the Dallas Stars hockey games, another team moving its facility out here. Sponsoring the Stars would make no sense when the majority of the audience would be ineligible for membership.” McCoy had to obtain approvals from three members of the executive management team before presenting his findings to the board of directors. “When the Board saw what we were getting, it was fairly easy,” McCoy said. “We are also putting in an ATM near the main entrance to the ballpark, behind home plate. We’ll see what kind of volume we get, and maybe more will follow.” The Frisco ballpark will seat 9,000, with an outfield lawn that will accommodate an additional 2,000 fans. The RoughRiders will begin play in 2003. McCoy said timing was critical in making the most of this sponsorship opportunity. “I don’t know who we beat out, but the guys who made the pitch to us were waiting outside for our decision. They were heading to another financial institution next, and the kind of sponsorship they would pitch depended on the outcome of our meeting.” It didn’t hurt that Mike McCall’s FPB administrative assistant was a former loyal Texans member, who had only discontinued her membership because she moved to an area without a credit union branch nearby. “She was helpful in making sure we didn’t get lost in the shuffle,” McCoy said. Perhaps the best affirmation of the credit union’s decision to partner with FPB came from members. Amidst this summer’s talk of potential professional baseball player strikes, McCoy said a number of Texans members said, “Let them strike, I’m going to the double-A games.” [email protected]

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