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Heard on the Beat / In Orange County

Laguna Hills Firm Finds a Bull Market

May 27, 1996|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the Chicago Bulls pursue yet another NBA title, tickets for the team's home games are about as hard to find as hairs on Michael Jordan's head. But as a Laguna Hills company has shown, getting choice seats is easy when you know the magic words: corporate sponsor.

Viking Components, a maker of computer memory products, joined the already crowded Chicago Bulls bandwagon earlier this month by signing a three-year corporate sponsorship with the basketball team.

The deal works like this: Viking agrees to pay somewhere between $400,000 and $3 million--the going rates for Bulls sponsorships--and in return the company gets eight season tickets plus a slew of promotional goodies, including a sign in the stands of the Bulls' arena.

The company kicked off its new relationship at a Bulls game May 16, when Viking Chief Executive Glenn McCusker got to hand out the game ball, and the company gave away 22,000 commemorative Bulls posters.

Sponsoring the Bulls was more than just a desperate attempt to get playoff tickets, said Peter Byrne, creative director of Viking's advertising department. Viking does about 40% of its business in the Chicago area, he said, and the company thought a Bulls sponsorship would be a great way to build brand recognition while buttering up important clients with tickets.

Viking will take advantage of the deal at the COMDEX computer trade show in Chicago next month, where Bulls representatives are expected to spend some time at the Viking booth.

"Hopefully, it's going to be a Bulls player, not just somebody dressed up like Michael Jordan," Byrne joked.

Viking appears to be particularly interested in cultivating a promotional relationship with the Bulls' tattooed rebounding specialist Dennis Rodman. Rodman was pictured in the Viking posters given away a few weeks ago, and the company even persuaded him to dye his hair blue--Viking's corporate color--for the occasion, Byrne said.

Asked whether company officials were concerned for their safety around Rodman, who was suspended earlier this season after bumping his head into a referee, Byrne said Viking officials aren't worried.

"Dennis doesn't head-butt anybody that's paying him," Byrne explained.

Greg Miller covers high technology for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at greg.miller@latimes.com.

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