Buy a BMW, get preferred Big Ten parking

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Collegiate sports fans of the Penn State Nittany Lions, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, or any of the other schools in the Big Ten Conference long to see their teams in league championship games this year. If those fans drive a certain brand of German auto, seeing their team compete for a title just might be a little easier.

German luxury automaker BMW established a partnership with the newly expanded Big Ten to become "the official luxury automobile" of the oldest Division I college athletic conference in the country. While such corporate partnerships are nothing new -- the Big Ten has 15 other such active partnerships -- this one comes with something different: preferential parking for BMW owners at "several Big Ten events, including the football championship game and men's basketball tournament," according to the automaker.

It won't apply to individual games, and exactly what the preferred parking means isn't yet clear, beyond a designated area to be established near the sporting event.

"With the championship games, we have the ability to do whatever we want at that stadium in Indianapolis, so the first [football] championship game will be a huge thing for us," said David Lee, a regional sales and marketing manager for BMW of North America. He said the company also plans to raffle off a trip among those who purchase BMWs this fall to the winner's choice of bowl games involving Big Ten teams.

It also plans other promotions to more deeply tie the knot between league and BMW, with promotional events at individual Big Ten schools, Lee said.

The inaugural Big Ten football championship game is Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, when the champion of the Legends Division will meet the champion of the Leaders Division, with the winner earning the Big Ten championship and a chance to play in either the Rose Bowl game or Bowl Championship Series national title game.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC , Honda Motors, Toyota Motors Corp., Subaru, Mazda Motor and Mitsubishi have manufacturing or large research facilities in states with Big Ten teams. BMW's sole manufacturing facility in the United States is located in Spartanburg, S.C. -- not to be confused with the Spartans of Michigan State.

Scott Bailey, general manager of Big Ten Sports Properties, declined to disclose the terms of the agreement with BMW.

In the United States, sales of BMW vehicles -- including the Mini Cooper -- accounted for 1.9 percent of all new vehicle sales in 2009 and '10, according to auto industry sales records. In '10, BMW sold about 220,000 vehicles in the United States.


Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Larry P. Vellequette writes for The Blade.


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