SKI JUMPS IN SPONSORSHIP INTEREST;PRODUCER ADDS ATHLETE STAR POWER

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Sponsorship of skiing events is getting hot, and the number of televised events is growing.

The No. 1 producer of televised ski competitions, Golden Gate Productions, recently inked long-term deals with several former Olympic medalists for broadcast, sponsorship and promotional activities.

The deals mark the first time pro ski racers have signed such exclusive deals for skiing TV programs; each will participate in 14 televised events through the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

"We signed these guys because the American public knows and recognizes Olympic medals, and it lends a great deal of promotional appeal to the athletes. No other measure of achievement is quite as powerful as Olympic medals," said Franklin Lowe, VP-sales at Golden Gate Productions, Corte Madera, Calif.

MORE EXPANSION PLANNED

Golden Gate, which claims to have posted the top ratings for all non-Olympic televised ski racing over the past two years, plans to continue expanding its events to include more corporate partners.

The medalists include Franz Klammer (1976), Leonhard Stock ('80), Phil Mahre ('80 and '84) and Pirmin Zurbriggin ('88). Golden Gate said it's currently in negotiations with other top skiers.

Two of Golden Gate's best-known events are the annual MCI Downhill Relays and the Sprint World Ski Challenge. Sponsors of various events last year included Visa USA, Saab Cars USA, Heineken USA and B.F. Goodrich Tires; Mr. Mahre has an additional personal athletic endorsement by B.F. Goodrich, enhancing the marketer's on-screen presence.

Golden Gate is now signing up sponsors for the 1996-97 season, and many of last year's participants are expected to re-up, Mr. Lowe said.

The company initiated the Tournament of Champions senior ski racing tour in 1990; in six years, it has grown to more than 10 annual events with combined prize money of $875,000.

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