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A pitch for business

Red Bulls focused on new partnerships at Harrison arena

Suites at Red Bull Arena are all-inclusive, making them hassle-free for corporate partners.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

For the New York Red Bulls, it was a landmark deal in more ways than one.

With their season just underway, the soccer club in March unveiled a marketing partnership with the Japanese heavy equipment maker Yanmar. Not only was it the largest sponsorship deal in club history — it marked the first time another company will have its name on the team’s training jerseys and a permanent sign inside Red Bull Arena.

“It’s big for us to allow that, because we only select very few partners to be co-branded with Red Bull in our building,” said Marc de Grandpre, the club’s general manager. “So it speaks to the synergies between the cultural values of the company.”

It was the type of splash you might hope to make once a year if you’re a professional sports team. But it’s just the beginning for the Harrison-based Red Bulls — at least when it comes to boosting partnerships and raising their profile in New Jersey’s business community.

The 20-year-old Major League Soccer club, which had its home opener March 22, is on a mission to promote its venue as a hub for Garden State companies to network, entertain and do business. Revenue from partnerships already is up 100 percent from this time last year, and 68 percent of that revenue comes from New Jersey-based companies.

“It’s just part of driving the focus internally that the building is open for business,” de Grandpre said. “Before, it was sort of a gem that’s been kept secret that we wanted to keep to ourselves — with Red Bull being the main sponsor — and now it’s really (about) how we can let more business partners and local corporations experience this.

“And the numbers don’t lie.”

When it comes to luxury suites — an old benchmark for corporate engagement — the club has sold 22 of the 32 boxes at the 5-year-old, 25,000-seat arena. That’s up from 14 less than a year ago.

And its partners include some names you might know — Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Affinity Federal Credit Union and NRG Home Solar.

The Red Bulls declined to discuss pricing for the suites. But a source with knowledge of the pricing structure, who was not authorized to discuss it on the record, said a full lease for the year costs less than $100,000 — which includes Red Bulls home games, international matches and entertainment — while a single-game lease is less than $8,000.

de Grandpre feels those partnerships offer the best value of any pro sports team in the region, he said. On game days, all suites include an open bar and food prepared by the arena’s in-house caterer, Delaware North Cos. — taking out the hassle of managing a menu — and it’s all served in a communal area that invites different companies to interact outside their boxes.

Joshua Burd

NJBIZ Business Events