Marketing Sports Memories For Worthy Causes
Tri Star takes sports memorabilia to next step
One of the best things about attending the Astros’ Wives Gala is that it offers an opportunity to rub shoulders with our boys of summer. It’s always fun to recognize the big players and to try to determine who everyone else is. Another super-cool feature of the event is the one-of-a-kind baseball memorabilia that is available in both silent and live auctions. Last year, I picked up an autographed pair of spikes. They are held prominently on display at my home.
But really cool sports memorabilia isn’t exclusive to Astros fund-raising events. In fact, more and more select items are popping up on the auction block of social soirees all over town. Now you can purchase an autographed jersey of your favorite player and help your favorite charity. What a great combination.
Just Another Day at the Office
At the forefront of this creative fund-raising wave is the local company, Tri Star Productions. The folks at Tri Star have the jobs that the sports fans in all of us wish we had. They hobnob day and night with sports stars most of us never have access to. Well, at least this is my take. They say it isn’t so, but the day I visited them, David Carr, the rockin’ quarterback for the Texans, was at the office signing autographs.
In an unassuming way, he sauntered into the office, sat down and signed several hundred pieces of memorabilia. It was all very methodical and surreal, like a factory. He signed pictures, hats and, of course, footballs. Although he signed nearly 500 items, he was out of the office in less than 30 minutes.
This type of signing event is really no big deal for Tri Star Productions President Jeff Rosenberg. Rosenberg, who founded the company in 1987, has contracts with athletes all over the country to distribute autographed memorabilia. When the business began, the main focus was producing collectible shows nationwide. There’s a big one at the George R. Brown each year. Now, Tri Star’s business has expanded to representing players, booking them for corporate events and distributing memorabilia.
All This – and in Houston?
“We started regionally and grew to develop a national presence. Houston is a nice launching point,” says Rosenberg. “The population of Houston is pretty representative of what’s going on in the country. Sports is a very regional industry. David Carr, who was in the office today, is the thing in Houston, Texas, but he doesn’t resonate nationally like he does here.
“On the other hand, we have stars with national appeal that come from Houston. Stars such as Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwan are names we all recognize.”
So how does a person know how much to bid at a charity auction? “If you’re bidding for charity, you really have to do what your heart tells you,” says Rosenberg.
“There aren’t really any price guides for signed memorabilia. Some people have tried, but it’s really difficult to pin down prices. You can go to our Web site to find what true retail is. The truth is, at an auction, items go for a lot higher than retail price because people are buying with their hearts. They want to help this charitable organization, and it would be great to take something home. My wife and I always make it a point to take something home. One, we want to have a memory of the event, and we want to help that charity. It’s a win-win situation.”
Rosenberg says they try to create some unique things in the auction that you can’t buy anywhere else. For example, several items might be grouped together, perhaps an autographed item from every starter on the championship Rockets team. The message here is pay attention, he says.
Rosenberg and his crew are just doing what many have been doing for years. “People were buying memorabilia (at our shows) and donating the items to auctions. Now, we make it easy for the charity because the charity can contact us directly.”
All This and Motivation, Too?
Corporations have also found creative uses for memorabilia. Items can be used as incentives to give to salespeople and customers. “People are always trying to do something different,” says Rosenberg.
So, instead of winning a set of golf clubs, the top salesperson just might win Astros tickets and a personalized, autographed picture of Jeff Bagwell. Imagine what that is worth to a sports fan.
“You can’t put a price on it as a gift. And most people don’t know what the value is. The perceived value of the signed item is typically much more than the cost to the corporation,” says Rosenberg. Besides, it can be a very personal gift, and the recipient will always remember who gave it to them. ih