City picks Third Street to sell sponsorships-WEB ONLY

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Indianapolis officials have picked locally based marketing firm Third Street to raise money by selling sponsorships, advertising and naming rights for city-owned properties.

Third Street was one of 15 local or out-of-state firms that responded to a city request for information issued in April. The cash-strapped city hopes to raise $500,000 a year after the sponsorship program launches this fall.

Third Street was formed early this year. Its president is Sean Smith, the former director of marketing at Chicago’s WXRT-FM 93.1, where he established a reputation for building non-traditional revenue streams. One campaign, called “The 93 Days of Summer,” created a brand around events the station helped stage during warm-weather months.

Smith said Third Street will solicit input from Indianapolis residents before nailing down its sponsorship strategy for the city.

“There are literally 1,000 ideas,” Smith said. “But our very first step would be engaging citizens of Indianapolis and getting their feedback on what they feel.”

City officials declined to comment prior to finalizing the deal tomorrow. Firms that competed for the work included local agencies MZD Advertising and Hirons & Co. Chicago-based sponsorship powerhouse IEG was among the out-of-town bidders.

Details on the Third Street contract were not immediately available. But in its proposal, Third Street said the city would face no upfront costs. The agency would take compensation in form of commissions and trades depending on individual deals it reaches. Third Street said it even would consider receiving some compensation in the form of municipal bonds and free rounds of golf at city courses.

In the 10-page proposal Third Street submitted to the city, the company wrote: “When the words ‘city sponsorship’ are mentioned, the immediate instinct of most people is to think about plastering a corporate logo on the side of a building. That is not how Third Street thinks.”

Specific ideas in the proposal include:

– Signing an insurance company to underwrite a portion of the cost of salting the city’s streets in the winter.

– Teaming with the city’s Office of Sustainability and Department of Public Works to launch a sponsored green-roof effort for city-owned properties.

– Getting a national household-cleaning-products company to sponsor street cleaning and graffiti removal throughout the city.

Smith and the company’s other two principals – David Jones and Andrew Thompson – all are Indiana University graduates. After working in Chicago for more than a dozen years, the trio decided to return to Indiana and start their business here. The name of the business comes from the Bloomington street where they first met.

Even with the economy in recession, Smith is confident sponsors will jump aboard.

“Great ideas typically find funding,” he said.

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