- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

Choice Hotels International has hit a home run with Little League Baseball. The Silver Spring hotel franchiser has signed on as the official hotel partner for the youth baseball group.
The three-year agreement gives Little League players, coaches, families and fans a centralized telephone number for hotel reservations and discounted rates at Choice's 3,300 properties in the United States and Canada. In return, the exclusive partnership will draw more guests to Choice's eight different hotel brands and will help market the company.
On average, a Little League team will book eight rooms for two nights when it travels. The league has 200,000 teams and about 3 million players. That doesn't include the 1.6 million families that travel to see the games.
"Little League Baseball's participants are the exact same family-oriented guests who stay in our hotels," said Wayne Wieglus, senior vice president of marketing at Choice.
Choice Hotels began an aggressive sports marketing effort two years ago and developed a Web site (www.choicesportstravel.com) in May to cater to its sports partners. The hotel company which targets sports groups on the youth to semiprofessional levels has partnered with such organizations as USA Diving, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and five college conferences including the Northeast Conference.
While the main goal is to drive revenue to Choice properties, the partnership with sports groups also gives Choice unique marketing opportunities like having its name on signs during games, advertising on programs and having ads run during televised games.
"It gives us tremendous exposure for our brand," said Brian Parker, Choice Hotels' director of sports marketing and sales.
A direct effort
The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA) has kicked off a direct mail campaign to get the attention of meeting planners. The campaign, which is targeting 700 potential new clients, is aimed at generating sales within the next 18 months.
"Business is so tough and were trying to do something to stand out," said Debra Dignan, associate vice president of convention sales.
The nine-week campaign, which started earlier this month, includes direct mail pieces and e-mails highlighting Baltimore's hotel and convention center package, new hotel and attraction development, as well as restaurants and its neighborhoods.
The $5,500 to $6,000 campaign culminates with a two-day telemarketing blitz in May to follow up on the mail.
This campaign is part of a sales initiative to help boost bookings, which are down this year.
The association has had a particularly tough time over the last couple of months after an evaluation from an outside consulting firm revealed BACVA had management issues and weak leadership. Carroll Armstrong, BACVA's chief executive, has resigned as a result and the agency is searching for new leadership.
In other news …
Eisner Communications was the big winner at the Advertising Association of Baltimore's 2003 Addy Award competition on March 16. The Baltimore agency walked away with 21 Addy Awards and 21 citation of excellence awards. Eisner Underground, a division of Eisner Communications, was the second-biggest winner with 13 Addy Awards, 12 citations of excellence and a special judges award. The Addy Awards for the Advertising Club of Metropolitan Washington will be presented on April 5.
Got news? Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Advertising & Marketing appears every other Monday.

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