SBJ/October 24-30, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

NCAA keeps AT&T as corporate champion

AT&T, the NCAA’s longest-standing partner, has extended its corporate champion sponsorship.

The three-year agreement keeps AT&T on board as the NCAA’s official wireless service provider and a heavily integrated sponsor of CBS’s basketball broadcasts, including “At the Half.”

Terms of the deal were not released, but NCAA corporate champion deals in the past have sold in the low eight figures annually. Coca-Cola and Capital One are the other corporate champions.

The NCAA lists 10 companies under its second tier of sponsors, called corporate partners. Those deals go for high seven figures to low eight figures annually.

The NCAA’s corporate sponsor program is managed and sold jointly by Turner Sports and CBS Sports.

“AT&T has been a partner for a long time and it really has become about finding more incremental opportunities for them,” said Chris Simko, CBS Sports’ senior vice president for sales and marketing, “With the partnership we have with Turner, it’s all about maximizing all of the pieces, both from the standpoint of the media platforms we have available and all of the NCAA’s 89 championships.”

AT&T in the renewal has committed to more activation against the NCAA’s championships in women’s basketball, baseball and lacrosse.

There is not an exclusive content play for AT&T because of the NCAA’s TV Everywhere approach of putting all of the men’s basketball tournament games on March Madness on Demand, but AT&T will have the opportunity to pass through some rights to its handset partners.

There also exists a possibility for AT&T to work with LG, an NCAA corporate partner, on marketing programs as well, said Will Funk, Turner’s senior vice president of NCAA partnerships.

AT&T came on board with the NCAA when it acquired Cingular and eventually merged those brands into one in 2007. Cingular’s deal with the NCAA goes back to 2001, a year before Coca-Cola came on board.

AT&T was represented by Team Epic on the deal. Media Edge works on AT&T’s media buying, while CSE in Atlanta handles AT&T’s creative integration into the CBS broadcasts.

Moving forward, Funk and Simko said they plan to limit the corporate champion program to the three current brands, but intend to expand the partner program from the 10 categories represented now.

Coca-Cola’s lengthy deal is up in 2013, but there are options to extend.
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