SBJ/May 9-15, 2011/Colleges

Winging it: IMG College adding Air Force

IMG College’s growing base of multimedia rights now includes the Air Force Academy, which will announce this week that it has struck a multiyear deal.

Air Force marks the first service academy to partner with IMG College. The new agreement will go into effect July 1.

Financial specifics are still being finalized, but industry sources say Air Force will receive a guarantee in the low seven figures annually. The Falcons’ new multimedia contract is expected to increase revenue over the old contract with CBS Collegiate Sports Properties by 30 to 35 percent.

IMG College will represent Air Force’s rights for radio, TV, coaches’ shows, coaches’ endorsements, corporate sponsorships, venue signs, game promotions, hospitality and Internet. The school, a Mountain West Conference member, had its rights with CBS for eight years.

“We’re a school that enjoys a national following because our graduate community goes all over the country,” said Dermot Coll, associate athletic director for Air Force. “We want to be partnered with a company that has other like-minded schools that play at the national level.”

IMG College’s roster now includes more than 80 schools. Air Force will be the first property for IMG College in Colorado and the company is considering an office in Denver to complement its three-person staff on Air Force’s campus in Colorado Springs.

There will not be any carryover from CBS’s old staff at Air Force.

“When you go to a football game at Air Force, it’s just a different experience,” said Janeen Lalik, an IMG College vice president who worked to secure the deal with Tom Stultz, senior vice president and managing director of IMG’s college media division. “There’s a certain pride that comes with representing a service academy and that’s something we feel like will translate very well with the national brands we’re talking to.”

Air Force entertained offers from Learfield Sports and the incumbent, CBS, before deciding on IMG College.

“We’re facing the same budget pressures that other schools face,” Coll said. “There’s a misconception that our budget comes from taxpayer dollars. We have a roughly $34 million budget and only a third comes from the federal government. With pressure to raise revenue for our athletic program, we thought IMG gave us the better chance to increase that revenue.”

Air Force’s list of corporate partners is a mix of local and national companies. The national companies include many defense contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The Falcons hope to attract national brands like Gatorade that have a broad and deep college sports portfolio.

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