By Malcolm Fleschner

When you think of excellence in college football, only one name comes to mind: Suzuki. OK, maybe not, but soon that may change. That’s because Suzuki recently inked a deal to become the first ever presenting sponsor of the Heisman Memorial Trophy, honoring the nation’s top college football player. And in an inspired bit of synergistic thinking, Suzuki is using this sponsorship to promote its new sales incentive program with the company’s automotive salespeople and sales managers.

Called the Suzuki 2003 Heisman Kick-Off Challenge, the contest runs from August 1 to October 31 and just happens to coincide with the launch of Suzuki’s new premium six-cylinder sedan, the Verona.

“Suzuki is honored to be the first presenting sponsor in the 69-year history of the Heisman Trophy,” says the company’s vice president of automotive sales, Gary Anderson. “Naturally we want to share this excitement with our dealers, sales managers and salespeople.”

For the reps, sharing the excitement means competing for sports attire and footballs signed by the player whose name will grace this year’s Heisman Trophy. Top performing managers have the opportunity to win a trip for two to New York City to attend the December 13 Heisman presentation ceremony at the historic Yale Club, meet the trophy winner and then hit the subsequent ESPN Heisman party.

Admittedly, not every sales organization has the wherewithal to sponsor an award of the Heisman’s magnitude, but there are still ways smaller sales team’s can capitalize on sporting events, local community activities and the latest pop culture events to create themed sales incentive programs. As the folks at Suzuki clearly understand, when it comes to sales incentive contests, a little planning and creativity on the front end go a long way toward producing bottom-line results at the contest’s conclusion.

Who knows, if the contest is successful enough, in a few years they might even rename the Heisman the Suzuki Trophy. Hey, it could happen.