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Chris Jones

Las Vegas Gears Up for NBA Event

3 August 2006

LAS VEGAS -- Representatives of some of the world's best-known brands will huddle here next month to discuss ways to link their products with February's NBA All-Star events in Las Vegas.

The National Basketball Association's 21 official marketing partners are a who's who of commercial giants, from the Coca-Cola Co. and Nike to Toyota Motor Corp., McDonald's Corp. and Southwest Airlines.

Their presence -- and subsequent marketing initiatives -- should form a foundation for several lucrative partnerships that will enhance Las Vegas' status as a popular international travel destination, sources said Tuesday.

"Believe me, we're going to maximize everything that we can as far as the game being here and our partnership with the NBA," said Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

In February, Ralenkotter said he hoped to sign deals with NBA sponsors by the end of March. His aggressive time frame didn't coincide with that of the NBA, which still had a regular season, playoffs and amateur draft to complete before it looked ahead to 2007.

Still, there's plenty of time to accomplish the city's goals, Ralenkotter said.

"A lot of times these marketing plans and so forth take a little bit more time to put together, but you focus at six months prior to the event," he said. "We're right at the cusp of that ... so now's the time where this will all come into play."

This year's All-Star events were broadcast in 44 languages in 215 countries. Several participants were from overseas, which should create the strong international viewership Las Vegas travel leaders will crave come February.

The mid-September sponsors summit, which will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, coincides with the period when many businesses plan their fourth- and first-quarter marketing campaigns.

Ski Austin, the NBA's executive vice president of events & attractions, said Las Vegas' reputation could make next year's All-Star events a bonanza for marketers seeking to capitalize on the event's popularity.

"There's a huge curiosity factor of, 'What's All-Star going to be like in the entertainment capital of the world?'" Austin said. "Las Vegas is interesting to a lot of our guests, a lot of our business partners, and I would expect that we're going to have some kind of unprecedented response from people who want to come and see it, be a part of it or take advantage of it."

Tuesday's roll-out of an $84,000 NBA-themed Las Vegas Monorail wrap followed April's unveiling of the 2007 All-Star logo at Fashion Show mall.

Also, the authority is developing ticket giveaways and promotions to draw attention to booths it will place at upcoming trade shows.

Beginning in this year's fourth quarter, residents of the city's 20 largest visitor markets will have the chance to win expenses-paid All-Star trips. The NBA and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., which makes the Lamisil athlete's foot treatment, now offers similar giveaways to fans online.

NBA and convention authority executives met locally Monday and Tuesday to discuss subjects that included All-Star countdown clocks, which should debut in mid-November in Las Vegas and on New York's Fifth Avenue.

Ralenkotter also hopes to draw attention using a campaign around balloting for next year's All-Star game, scheduled for Feb. 18 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Talks are now under way for sponsorship deals that could be completed prior to September's end, while Las Vegas-themed radio, TV and print ads could tie into the Oct. 31 start of the NBA's regular-season schedule.

"Once that season kicks in, that's when the intensity of the promotions, campaigns and strategies will come into place," Ralenkotter said.

Added Austin: "It's pretty much all systems go from now through the start of the season and continuing on to All-Star. A lot of our business units are working closely with people here. ... We're in a good position to start leveraging this from both sides."

Las Vegas' first notable deal with an NBA partner was announced in Houston earlier this year.

This fall, the convention authority will co-sponsor the NBA Europe Live tour presented by EA Sports, a division of Redwood City, Calif.-based video game manufacturer Electronic Arts. In early October, ads for Las Vegas will shadow four NBA teams as they conduct weeklong training camps in Barcelona, Spain; Treviso, Italy; Lyon, France and Moscow.