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Firm seeks Sox radio network name deal

Entercom looks to recoup portion of cost of broadcast rights

The owner of radio stations WEEI and WRKO, fresh from signing one of Major League Baseball's most expensive radio rights deals, has found a way to get some money back: selling naming rights to the Red Sox radio network.

``We'll be right back on the WEEI/WRKO (Your Company Name) Red Sox Radio Network," proclaims promotional material for the deal. Entercom Communications Corp., parent of the two stations, plans to mail out requests for proposals to 25 top advertisers this week to gauge their interest in the five-year agreement.

The asking price: several million dollars a year.

``Up until now, it has been the WEEI Radio Network -- this is a pretty big move for us," said Julie Kahn , vice president and New England market manager for Entercom.

The new sponsor will get air time on all 66 of the radio stations that broadcast Red Sox baseball across New England as soon as the latter part of this season. And the number of stations may grow: The Red Sox and Entercom are laying plans to broadcast Sox games in several major areas outside New England that are home to large numbers of Red Sox fans, including Florida, Arizona, and California, Kahn said. Ultimately, she said, Entercom and the Sox would like to expand the Red Sox radio network to 100 stations.

Entercom's promotional material tells prospective sponsors that they will be guaranteed a minimum of 21 mentions a game and three earlier in the day. They also will be able to buy 30-second commercials on the stations, or ``customized integration into the play-by-play action . . . i.e. `It's time for the ( naming rights sponsor ) Save of the Game trivia question.' "

Though the idea of selling a sponsorship to a radio network is not new, Entercom is likely to raise far more money than other stations , said Bob Snyder , owner of Beason Broadcast Partners outside Chicago. The broadcast partners for many less-popular teams, he said, give away the naming rights as a perk to an existing sponsor.

``I don't know of another team that's up there with the Red Sox," he said. ``They probably are going to be the benchmark here."

In New England, TD Banknorth Inc. owns the naming rights to the Patriots' and Bruins' radio networks. The Celtics' radio network naming rights, also controlled by Entercom, are for sale.

The naming rights sale comes shortly after Entercom won a contentious bidding process for the right to air Red Sox games. Under the company's new rights deal, estimated to cost about $13 million to $14 million a year, games will be split between WRKO and WEEI starting next season. The idea to sell naming rights came from the Sox during negotiations, said Kahn, the Entercom executive.

Entercom executives are promoting the deal as the last big naming rights opportunity in Boston sports. The Patriots' home, Gillette Stadium, already has a name, while the Celtics' and Bruins' arena was recently renamed TD Banknorth Garden.

``We really believe this is an ocean front real estate opportunity," Kahn said.

Companies are likely to jump on the deal because it combines the best elements of traditional naming rights, but, tied to a broadcaster, guarantees broad exposure, said Richard Krezwick , former chief executive of TD Banknorth Garden, who consulted with Entercom about the deal.

``What makes this so valuable is the built-in media outlet that is associated with the naming rights," he said. ``It's not a traditional naming rights opportunity, and it's certainly not a traditional radio buy. It's the marriage of the two that makes it so valuable."

Sasha Talcott can be reached at stalcott@globe.com.

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