With a flag football festival scheduled for Saturday in Baltimore, organizers of amateur and semi-professional sporting events touted their entertainment value and economic impact, including the benefit to businesses looking to target spectators and participants.
The Baltimore Flag Football Festival, which will be held on the infield of Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, looks to attract upward of 1,500 people if the weather is fair, according to event organizer Scott Westcoat.
“I think our target demo is the 20-something, 30-something weekend warrior,” said Westcoat, “director of FUN” at ASG Sports Inc., a Baltimore-based company that runs “grassroots” events.
Westcoat said there won’t be an admission charge, but he expects to at least make the $80,000 that it has cost to put on the festival. Hopefully, he said, it will actually turn a profit.
Westcoat added that while donations at the gate will be welcomed, there is no recommended dollar amount per attendee.
“We kind of left it open on the semantics there to see how big people’s hearts were,” he said.
Teams pay registration fees ranging from $255 for youth five-on-five teams to $445 for adult eight-on-eight teams.
The Baltimore Flag Football Festival, like many other non-professional sporting events, will provide companies with tabling opportunities, advertising and direct vending, Westcoat said. Among the festival’s corporate sponsors are PepsiCo Inc., Dr Pepper and Sports Authority. Baltimore-based Roma Gourmet Sausage is also using the event as an opportunity to introduce a new chicken sausage named for Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed, according to Westcoat.
Westcoat said he expected about 800 athletes, including both children and adults, from across the mid-Atlantic region to attend the Baltimore Flag Football Festival.
“We have teams from Virginia, from Philadelphia, from Delaware, from Maryland — Baltimore County, Baltimore City proper, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County,” Westcoat said.
Westcoat said he viewed non-professional sporting events like the Baltimore Flag Football Festival as business opportunities. He said they provide ways for businesses to court the male demographic without having to pay as much as they would for professional sporting events.
“We’re a lot cheaper than buying a sponsorship for one of the major professional teams,” Westcoat said. “We’re an economic alternative, and that’s the way we position ourselves.”
Although Westcoat said ASG Sports reached out to several flag football associations across the region as well as nationally in putting together the event, Maryland Flag Football Association President Tony Irondi said he had not heard about the festival.
“I’m familiar with the individuals who are throwing this, but I can tell you right now we’re not involved in this,” Irondi said. “I’m sure it’s a pretty good event, but we just weren’t made aware of it.”
Irondi said that his organization has not pursued corporate sponsorships or opened the doors to the on-site marketing and advertising that frequently accompany them. He said they hope to do, though he did not give a timetable.
“The companies that we will typically open up to are your Home Depots, Lowe’s, definitely various sports companies,” said Irondi. “We’ll give the different businesses exposure on the website, if that’s what they want, but we’re definitely open to all kinds of offers.”
While some teams in the league have their own corporate sponsors, the MFFA operates on team-by-team contributions and receives no support from outside businesses, according to Irondi.
Irondi said a typical 10-game season costs about $110,000 to stage, not including equipment and uniforms, which individual teams provide. The average game, played at the Community College of Baltimore County’s Essex campus, garners a turnout of between 50 and 100 people, though instances of curious passersby on campus for another event boosting turnout well above that have occurred, he said.
“It’s a social thing, a place for these guys to have their families come and see them on Sundays,” Irondi said. “There’s no marketing that takes place, and there’s no advertising, so we don’t really expect to have big turnouts.”
Pete Townsend, director of Georgetown, Del.-based amateur baseball facility Sports at the Beach, said that while his company does permit on-site advertising on fences and in the facility’s pro shop, its children’s baseball events draw even smaller crowds than Irondi estimated for his league’s games, with 25 spectators per team typical for most.
Townsend’s operation works at a grander scale than Irondi’s, though, with about 200 games put on in an average weekend and 35 or 36 weekend tournaments in the average year.
“We’ve played about 7,000 games this year,” Townsend said. According to him, each weekend costs about $35,000 to $40,000 to put on, about half the budget of the one-day Baltimore Flag Football Festival.
Townsend pointed to the economic impact of the amateur baseball season on Delaware’s Sussex County, including the profits reaped by local providers of amenities. According to him, restaurants and motels, which he said comprise the bulk of advertisers at Sports at the Beach, benefit tremendously from the influx of visitors for each tournament. Some teams come from as far north as Connecticut and Rhode Island to play at the facility, he said.
“From the records that we’ve kept, and from the [Delaware Economic Development Office], we’ve brought in almost $40 million to the county … this past year,” Townsend said.