Clumsy, amateur attempts to find corporate sponsors for the 1991 Sheffield World University Games worried those running Buffalo's 1993 Games, but organizers here say they now believe they can find $24 million in corporate money of their own.
"I'm more optimistic than I was a week ago," said Ron Ferguson, executive director of the Buffalo Games. "I was concerned, but I don't think it's going to hurt us at all."
Ferguson said he greeted with mixed emotions the news that the British government had stepped in to run the Sheffield Games. While he was pleased the government will now assume responsibility, it also meant the 1991 Games would not be attracting corporate sponsors.
Buffalo plans to run the Games as a commercial event and raise $24 million from companies paying for the right to use the Games to promote their products.
Ferguson and other Games officials met Wednesday with Pascoe Nally International, the international marketing firm Buffalo organizers will probably hire to market the 1993 event worldwide.
Local organizers asked the tough question: Will the problems in Sheffield prevent Buffalo from marketing its Games as originally planned?
"Their feeling is that will have no affect on us at all," said Ferguson. "It may have given us some concern with a couple of European sponsors. But it's not going to be an obstacle."
The World University Games, called the largest amateur athletic event in the world other than the Olympics, are still largely unknown in the United States.
Buffalo's Games in 1993 will be the first time they are held in America. Local organizers hope they will focus worldwide attention on Buffalo and, at the same time, elevate the image of the Games beyond the countries that have hosted them in the past.
Local organizers say the 11-day event will inject about $200 million into the local economy.
William Breen, president of Pascoe Nally in New York City, said he could not comment on the World University Games market because no contract has been signed with Buffalo organizers.
Pascoe Nally, headquartered in London, is expected to be the firm that markets the 1993 Games to international businesses.
Ferguson said he was confident Pascoe Nally could tell whether the market could support the kind of money Buffalo organizers originally budgeted for corporate sponsorships.
"That doesn't mean the money is going to be easy to get," said Ferguson. "But certainly, the business plan we looked at yesterday came up very well."
David Warfel, director of marketing for the Buffalo Games, said the number of sponsorships gathered by Sheffield is not very significant.
"It's a government-funded event, as opposed to a commercial event," Warfel said. "We are sponsoring and marketing the Games differently than what Sheffield has done and we feel we can learn from them."
"We are creating a new product in the U.S.," Warfel said. "We need to convince the marketers what the real opportunities are."
Problems plagued the 1989 Games originally scheduled for Sao Paulo, Brazil. Five months before they were scheduled to begin, the Games were moved to Duisburg, West Germany, because of economic and political unrest in Brazil.
Duisburg rushed together a successful but scaled-down version of the amateur athletic festival.
Wednesday's meeting was the latest in a short string of promising developments for Games organizers. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to release the first $1 million in aid soon. Gov. Cuomo Monday proposed a long-awaited funding package of $27.3 million for the 1993 Games.
Cuomo's plan called for the State Dormitory Authority to pay $2.3 million for the design and planning of the State University at Buffalo stadium and expanded seating at the university's swimming facility.
Cuomo said he will also recommend the dormitory authority pay for both projects. The state will then reimburse the agency for the money, according to Cuomo's plan.