Events light Coleman's fire

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Sunbeam Corp.'s Coleman Co. said its sales have increased 50% since adopting an event marketing strategy that's expanding to include concerts and fishing tournaments as well as major Nascar races.

The Wichita, Kan.-based outdoor equipment marketer has marketing deals with eight of the nation's largest Nascar tracks, where it displays its outdoor and camping products and provides free repairs to Coleman equipment for as many as 250,000 auto racing fans who will camp onsite at 16 National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing events this season.

The response from fans has been so strong Coleman has poured additional millions into the program since it launched last year. This year the company will use its "Coleman Out There" event marketing program to introduce BackHome, its first-ever line of patio furniture and Exponent, a line of heavy-duty outdoor equipment.

"We've become such a big force at the campgrounds of race tracks that race tracks like Sears Point (Sonoma, Calif.) are changing their track areas to accommodate us, giving us bigger space for marketing," said Jim Cormier, Coleman's senior director of consumer marketing.

Through a multimillion-dollar effort conceived and executed by GMR Marketing, New Berlin, Wis., Coleman rotates its mobile marketing operation to major music festivals and fishing tournaments on non-Nascar weekends.

This year Coleman has also boosted its on-site marketing activities to encompass its sponsorship of 16 Nascar drivers, who make appearances and sign autographs at Coleman's campsite area; sweepstakes and entertainment are also provided for families and the company is creating a "Coleman Kids" area with games.

"For many years we had become so focused on major retailers that we had lost our direct customer contact, and these events have re-energized the entire company," he said.

Coleman is owned by troubled Sunbeam Corp., which filed for bankruptcy organization in Februrary.

Coleman continues to support its brand through TV and print advertising via WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, Detroit; its theme is "Inspired by Nature."

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