SBJ/October 17-23, 2011/Colleges

Fox Sports Enterprises seeking founding sponsors for Pac-12’s football championship game

The Pac-12’s sales arm, Fox Sports Enterprises, is on the street selling founding sponsorships for the conference’s inaugural football championship game.

The conference and Fox have jointly agreed not to offer a title sponsorship for the game this season, but no decisions have been made on future games. The conference decided it wanted an uncluttered look on the field and the Fox Sports TV broadcast as a way of emphasizing the Pac-12’s own branding, as opposed to a title sponsor’s branding.

There also are complications with selling a title sponsorship to a game whose venue might not be decided until six days before kickoff. This season’s inaugural championship game is scheduled for Dec. 2 at the home field of the school with the best conference record. Some venues can accommodate the demands of a title sponsor, such as heavy hospitality, on-field branding and in-venue activation, better than others.

League officials and the Fox sales team already have been surveying likely sites, such as Arizona State, Oregon and Stanford.

“The philosophy for this inaugural game is to keep the field and the venue as clean as possible,” said Jack Trompeter, director of corporate sales for Fox Sports Enterprises, which also represents Conference USA. Trompeter wouldn’t comment on the cost of the sponsorships. “We’re really using a ‘less is more’ strategy for sponsorships.”

Trompeter said his sales team targeted current Pac-12 corporate partners first. Those partners include Pacific Life, Bank of the West, Sunkist, Dr Pepper, Verizon, UPS, MFS Investments and others. The conference and Fox hope to have founding sponsors finalized by mid-November before announcing the list. They’re also offering secondary sponsorship positions.

This is the only season Fox will sell the championship game. Its role running Pac-12 Properties contractually expires in June 2012. The newly formed Pac-12 Enterprises will handle sponsorship sales in the future. Former IMG executive Steve Kerepesi has been hired to run sponsorship sales for Pac-12 Enterprises, where he reports to President Gary Stevenson.

Even though this is Fox’s only season selling sponsorships for the football game, the conference is expected to accommodate sponsors that want multiyear deals.

Fox will have access to signage around the stadium for its championship game sponsors. There also will be an activation presence for sponsors outside the stadium, Trompeter said.

One thing the game will not offer this season is a centrally located fan fest because there are too many variables in play with the different sites. Some campuses might not have the space around the stadium to build a fan fest, so the conference discarded the idea for this season.

The conference does hope to install some elements of a fan fest around the stadium to give sponsors more activation platforms, depending on the venue.

Any existing signage will likely be covered if the school controls the stadium, as is the case with Arizona State, Oregon and Stanford. Schools that don’t control their stadium this season are UCLA at the Rose Bowl, California at AT&T Park and Washington at CenturyLink Field. The Huskies are playing in Husky Stadium until November, when it will begin renovations. Washington’s season finale against Washington State and a potential championship game would go to the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium.

“If it’s a school-controlled stadium, we have more flexibility in terms of offering exclusivity in-stadium,” Trompeter said. “But we expect to have plenty of signage assets available, from static signs to the video board, entrance, exits, that kind of thing.”

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