- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 6, 2004

The Baltimore Orioles have heightened their already fierce protection of the greater Washington market by hiring the Bomstein Agency, a District-based advertising and public relations company, to boost local support of the team.

Bomstein will lead a seven-month promotional campaign, beginning in about three weeks, that includes print and radio ads, billboards and Internet promotion. Both parties declined to specify a cost figure, but the total marketing effort will exceed $1million.

“We’re looking to upgrade our marketing to the entire region,” said Spiro Alafassos, Orioles executive director of communications. “We’ve done some marketing and media buys in-house. We have the store [at Farragut Square] and the D.C. Fan Fest. But we felt we need some additional help from somebody with a lot of experience and background marketing to sports fans in Washington and Northern Virginia.”

The level of Orioles support from greater Washington has been the subject of angry debate between the Orioles and local baseball boosters for many years. Orioles executives, including owner Peter Angelos, insist a full quarter of ticket sales, luxury seat sales and corporate sponsorship derive from the Washington area.

Local entities seeking a team, such as the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission and Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, peg the number at much closer to 10 percent, heightening their case that a combined area of more than 8million people can easily support a second team.

Whatever the number truly is, the Orioles clearly want to elevate the figure and stop a six-year attendance decline at Camden Yards. Alafassos said the marketing boost to greater Washington matches intensified marketing under way in Baltimore and southern Pennsylvania and is not related to the local area’s ongoing quest for a team. That pursuit, now in its 33rd year, is expected to reach some endpoint by mid-summer, when Major League Baseball says it will select a home for the orphaned Montreal Expos.

At the same time, Alafassos, like Angelos, remains strident that the local area is an indispensable part of the Orioles’ economic survival.

“We think, and we have always thought, that D.C. and Northern Virginia are part of our home territory,” Alafassos said.

The strict definition of the Orioles’ home market, however, includes Baltimore city and county, and Howard, Anne Arundel, Harford and Carroll counties in Maryland.

Bomstein is no stranger to sports promotional work. The Georgetown outfit has worked with the Washington Capitals, SFX Sports, Bowie Baysox and the Sport & Health Clubs chain. The Washington Times also is a client of Bomstein.

The message of the Bomstein-led promotions will vary between general baseball themes and the cadre of free agents signed over the winter, including shortstop Miguel Tejada and catcher Javy Lopez.

“It’s going to be pretty straightforward,” agency owner Howard Bomstein said. “If you want to see Major League Baseball, the best, closest option is the Orioles. It’s close and affordable, particularly compared to a lot of competing entertainment forms.”

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