SBJ/August 1-7, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Sprint to sponsor Notre Dame football game

Notre Dame has signed Sprint to be the presenting sponsor of its game against Maryland at FedEx Field this season, marking the first time the school has sold a presenting position on its annual neutral-site contest.

The Fighting Irish have been playing a neutral-site game each year since 2009, when they faced Washington State in San Antonio. Notre Dame took on Army last year in the first college football game in Yankee Stadium.

But Notre Dame Sports Properties, the multimedia and marketing arm of the university, wasn’t selling presenting sponsorships to those games. It wasn’t until last summer that Scott Correira, the president and general manager of the property, suggested that a presenting sponsorship for the game would be a unique addition to the school’s inventory.

Correira liked the idea of giving a sponsor the opportunity to activate in a market outside of South Bend, Ind., where the school is based. The pro stadiums where the neutral-site games are being played also give Notre Dame more flexibility to promote a top sponsor with signage and air time on the video board. Notre Dame Stadium does not have a video board.

Other Team Notre Dame members — the highest level of sponsorship the school offers — will have some limited activation opportunities, such as hospitality and lighter exposure on the video board. The Team Notre Dame sponsors, in addition to Sprint, are Gatorade, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Xerox and McDonald’s.

“One of the big things we promote about being a partner with Notre Dame is the national platform we offer,” Correira said. “Now we’re able to take a sponsor into new markets that weren’t previously available.”

Sprint, whose CEO, Dan Hesse, graduated from Notre Dame, was well into discussions about a Team Notre Dame sponsorship last year when the Irish added the presenting sponsorship to the mix. The agreement was made in time for both sides to roll the presenting sponsorship into the same deal as the Team Notre Dame sponsorship. The deal wasn’t done in time for the 2010 season, so this year’s game became the first presenting deal. Hesse has said that Sprint’s target market is shifting in the direction of college students.

Sprint agreed to a two-year deal on the neutral-site games that include the Nov. 12 contest against Maryland at FedEx Field and next year’s Oct. 6 game against Miami at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Both games will be broadcast by the Irish’s network partner, NBC.

“We’re partnering with a national brand that is synonymous with excellence, and this enables us to extend the reach of our exclusive marketing agreement into two major markets, D.C. and Chicago,” wrote Tim Considine, Sprint’s director of marketing and sports sponsorship, in an email.

The administration of those games will be treated like a home game for Notre Dame, so it will be able to offer a full package of assets, including hospitality, significant mentions on the video board and public address announcements, and placement of the logo on tickets, communications and any other game-related collateral. The Irish do not sell presenting sponsorships for their games in South Bend.

Terms of the deal were not available, but Team Notre Dame sponsors typically spend in the low to mid-seven figures combined for sponsorship with the school and required advertising spending on NBC.

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