SBJ/February 27-March 4, 2012/Colleges

Learfield, Fox sales group form partnership

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The Big Ten Network and Home Team Sports, a sales division of Fox Sports, will have access to sell school sponsorship assets through a new sales alliance with Learfield Sports.

Learfield, the dominant multimedia rights holder in the Big Ten, owns the rights to seven of the 12 schools in the Big Ten. Home Team Sports, which sells the Big Ten Network and inventory on other Fox networks, and the Big Ten Network’s own ad sales team will have rights to sell Learfield’s school inventory, providing clients with both media and on-campus sponsorship rights in the same package for the first time. Fox owns 51 percent of the conference network, hence, the relationship with HTS.

Learfield’s inventory includes radio advertising, sponsorships, signage, experiential and promotional rights. Learfield does not yet have full access to the network's inventory, although that could be a future phase of the sales alliance. In isolated situations, Learfield does have limited access to some Big Ten Network inventory for one-off deals, but that is separate from the new HTS relationship.

By joining forces, Home Team Sports, the Big Ten Net and Learfield will be able to package TV and digital inventory with school sponsorship packages.

“We’ve been bumping into each other in the lobbies of our clients’ offices for years,” said Andy Rawlings, Learfield’s COO. “As we started comparing notes with the network, we thought there would be situations where we could literally go in together, put together a package and sell together.”

Learfield’s inventory includes sponsorship, signs, experiential marketing, promotional rights and radio at Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Penn State and Wisconsin.

The deal with the conference gives Learfield many of those same rights to championship events, except for the football championship, which Fox owns.

“The main goal is to approach advertisers with a simpler, more elegant solution, so that we can help bring these school elements to bear,” said Kyle Sherman, executive vice president of Fox’s HTS. “We’re trying to simplify a process that in the past has required two separate meetings with different people who have different objectives. Now we’re going to bring a solution that can cover many of the bases for the advertiser.”

Like with any partnership, though, the Learfield-HTS arrangement comes with challenges. There will be times that sales representatives from both companies will work together, even visit prospective clients together, in a unified sales effort. Who takes the lead in these meetings is a question that Learfield and HTS will have to determine beforehand.

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