EVENTS & PROMOTIONS: SHOPPING FOR MALLS: SPONSORS REACH PEOPLE WHO ARE READY TO SPEND

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Shopping malls are expected to generate a flurry of new sponsorships this year, making them the hottest facility-based sponsorship venue.

"Stadiums have been the big target for facilities sponsorships, but malls are the hot new area for long-term marketing partnerships, since people come prepared to spend money instead of sit and watch," said Dean Bonham, president of the Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports marketing and sponsorship consultancy.

Charge card marketers already have rushed to lock up key sponsorships with major mall developers; telecommunications, cars, entertainment and software are the next hot categories expected to spawn new deals.

"Long-term partnerships allow both sides to do more and develop more meaningful relationships with customers than short-term promotions," said Denise Anton, senior VP-center operations for Taubman Co., one of the nation's largest mall developers.

AMEX LINKS TO 59 MALLS

American Express Co. recently inked long-term sponsorship deals with 59 malls around the U.S. through several developers. At certain Taubman malls, AmEx cardholders get free valet parking and other perks. AmEx also shares shopper demographic information with Taubman.

A deal between AmEx and Mills Corp. gives the charge card company on-site marketing rights in Mills' seven megamalls.

Visa USA last year allied itself with 131 Simon DeBartelo Group properties, as well as more than 100 malls owned by General Growth Partners.

Telecommunications already is yielding new sponsorships. Mills recently signed GTE Corp. as a sponsor of its Grapevine Mills megamall in Dallas, allowing the telecommunications marketer on-site marketing rights. Mills also is negotiating deals with several other potential sponsors.

"High-impact partnerships with certain marketers are the future, with less emphasis on high-turnover and short-term promotions," said Tony Wells, Mills VP-sponsorship.

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