Los Angeles, CA
Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut just announced a sponsorship deal with Bernard Lee, pro and co-host of ESPN's Inside Deal. That means when you see Bernard Lee playing in a live event, he'll be sporting a shirt and/or hat with the Foxwoods logo. In addition, he'll be the acting as the official spokesperson for the poker room. Lee has been a regular player at Foxwoods since its opening in 1992.
Bernard Lee first made waves on ESPN during his deep run in the 2005 Main Event. Since then, he's done one of the better jobs at capitalizing on his initial "fifteen minutes of fame." He became a columnist at the Boston Herald and for ESPN.com. In addition to the Inside Deal, Lee also hosts his own show on Boston AM radio.
Interesting business decision from the Pequots, who are the Native American tribe who own Foxwoods. When Mohegan Sun closed the doors to their poker room in September of 2004, Foxwoods instantly controlled a monopoly on poker in New England. They didn't have to do anything marketing wise because the players came to them. They had zero competition until Mohegan Sun re-opened their poker room after a four year hiatus. And just recently, Mohegan Sun inked a deal to host a event on the newly formed PokerStars.net NAPT. Foxwoods had to come up with a creative way to market their room -- which is how the Bernard Lee sponsorship fell into place.
In a day when online poker rooms are constantly battling each other to sponsor pros (both live and online), it's rare to see a brick and mortar room sponsor a player. Scotty Nguyen and Cherokee Casino quickly comes to mind, but aside from Scotty, I can't think of any other players who are backed by a land-based casino. Foxwoods signing Bernard Lee to a sponsorship deal sets a precedent, so expect to see other casinos follow suit. This opens up the market to a slew of potential partnerships.
Will Harrah's, the Bellagio, or the Borgata eventually sponsor players? And which pros will strike gold with B&M casino sponsorships? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
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