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Corporations Wasted Estimated 43% of Sports Tickets Last Year

One of the most highly scrutinized pieces of spending by public companies during the economic downturn was sports sponsorship and bringing clients to live sporting events.

And it made sense. Companies that said they used sports to do business didn’t do a particularly good job of publicly rationalizing that spend.

Enter Corporate Events Group, one of a select group of companies that has helped businesses at least internally understand the return on their investment from doing business at the game.

Because of inefficiencies, starting at how companies hold and manage the ticket process, 43 percent of tickets bought by corporations went unused in 2008, according to Anthony Knopp, vice president of business development for the company.

Knopp’s company offers a Web-based portal that manages a company’s entire group of ticket holdings. Employees then log on and make requests and are evaluated based on specific business purpose and sometimes quality of guest and the amount of business at stake.

The portal also gives the user the opportunity to buy tickets on sites like StubHub if the internal tickets aren’t ideal. Anything taken through the internal system, including tickets bought through secondary sites on the portal, are immediately entered into the company’s database. A company also has the ability to enter the business that was done off a particular meeting at a game so that it can better monitor the return.

Knopp said the downturn has helped the company’s business, as keeping track of spending at every level has become more important.

“For years, a lot of companies told us that they had bigger fish to fry than keep track of their sports tickets and how they are used,” Knopp said. “And our response was always, ‘Do you have any other marketing campaigns that you spend $10 million on, that you don’t track?”

The database allows companies to sort by clients taken to the game, the executive who takes them, as well as the team and the venue where most of the business takes place. It also helps companies compile a comprehensive list of their spending for the tax deduction that they can take from going to the game as a business expense.

Knopp says Corporate Events Group has 12 companies that spend more than $4 million on tickets as clients, as well as a host of brands that spend less.

“We had one company that had Tampa Bay Rays tickets and used 9 percent of the total inventory on the season,” Knopp said. “That investment obviously had to be scaled back. We think that it’s realistic for a company to use between 78 and 85 percent of the tickets they buy.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com