SBJ/January 9 - 15, 2006/Marketingsponsorship

Marketing service aligns with NACDA

With its men’s basketball and football programs poised to take off, Southern Illinois University wanted to raise the teams’ profile in the collegiate sports world.

So in 2002, athletic director Paul Kowalczyk signed an agreement with Strategic Marketing Affiliates to develop a five-year, strategic marketing plan for those Salukis teams.

Marketing assistance provided to Southern Illinois
sparked the idea for NACDA Consulting.

SMA’s ideas “were a big help to us,” Kowalczyk said. They helped the Salukis boost their home attendance and the number of times they appeared on television, among other things.

Now, SMA hopes to assist other college athletic departments. The Indianapolis consulting firm recently signed a five-year agreement with the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics to form NACDA Consulting, a new division of SMA.

The group seeks to seeks to fulfill the consulting needs of NACDA’s 1,600 member institutions.

“There are people out there doing some things like this, doing different pieces,” said NACDA Consulting President Bob Bernard. “We felt like we could be a one-stop shop for all of these services.”

The services that NACDA Consulting offers athletic departments include analysis to maximize revenue, advice on launching advertising and marketing campaigns, assistance in evaluating and finding candidates for athletic director and head football coach openings, industry and market research and background checks on potential recruits.

The company is based in Indianapolis, with a regional office in Atlanta. Bernard, who heads SMA, and vice president Russell Wright, former vice president of CSTV Online Inc., have assembled a roster of 15 consultants, including Collegiate Licensing Co. Chairman Bill Battle, former Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel and outgoing University of Cincinnati athletic director Bob Goin.

NACDA Consulting already has two clients, Merrimack College and Florida Atlantic University, for whom it is conducting corporate sales analyses. The company also is discussing projects with other schools.

“We’ve got a very strong stable of consultants on board right now,” Bernard said. “We are ready to go.”

The for-profit company hopes to generate revenue of $300,000 in its first year, Wright said, and ultimately could bring in as much as $5 million annually.

With so many athletic departments needing help, “We really think this is limitless,” Wright said.

NACDA Consulting will charge athletic departments a fee up front or for royalties after the job, depending upon the agreement reached, Wright said. For example, if it helps a department boost a season-ticket base, it may take 5 percent of the extra revenue generated by that increase.

NACDA will receive licensing fees from NACDA Consulting, money that will go toward the nonprofit’s operating expenses, said Bob Vecchione, NACDA associate executive director.

NACDA Consulting has not yet devised a price roster but will charge considerably less than it would a corporate partner, Wright said, in order to meet the budgetary demands of athletic departments.

Bernard has experience working with the departments. He handled licensing for Clarkson University when Sean Frazier was its athletic director, Frazier said. Now Merrimack’s athletic director, Frazier said he recently hired Bernard there. Bernard’s work has also pleased Craig Angelos, Florida Atlantic’s athletic director.

Bernard spent a few years researching and developing NACDA Consulting because of discussions with athletic directors who needed help.

That is one reason that Vecchione is promoting the company. “As this industry has evolved, there just seems to be a need for our institutions to reach out and use outside entities,” he said.

That’s because being an athletic director demands knowledge of law, accounting, marketing and management, among other subjects, Bernard said.

But NACDA Consulting does not cover all of the bases, said Herb Greenberg, CEO of Caliper Corp., a Princeton, N.J., company that has consulted for professional and collegiate teams for more than 20 years. NACDA Consulting does not offer psychological evaluations of recruits, for example. That is a Caliper staple.

“I think [NACDA Consulting] is a very good idea,” Greenberg said, “[but] there are still holes.”

Bernard intends to fill those holes. Once NACDA Consulting has established itself, it hopes to add more consulting services, he said.

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