SBJ/October 29-November 4, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Libman makes a clean sweep with Big Ten

It’s safe to say that the mop and broom category is relatively untapped in the college space, but the Big Ten has found a solution for at least one Midwestern company that sought exposure during basketball timeouts.

Through a groundbreaking sponsorship deal with Learfield Sports, the Big Ten’s multimedia rights holder, Illinois-based Libman Co. will have branded mops cleaning the hardwood floors and ballboys wearing Libman T-shirts during Big Ten basketball games. Libman’s deal runs across all 12 conference schools and championship events, marking the first time that a sponsor has been able to buy rights to the schools and the league in the same deal.

Conference sponsorships normally only carry the rights to its championship events, while schools sell their own rights through their multimedia rights holder.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done all 12 schools, plus the conference piece,” said Scott Bailey, Learfield’s general manager for the Big Ten property. “We reached out to all 12 schools to make sure there weren’t any conflicts, and there weren’t. Then we could put together a consistent program across the board.”

Libman’s traditional product line has included mops and brooms since the private family company was founded in 1896. In the past year, however, Libman has moved into cleaning products and chemicals, and the sponsorship will help the company to promote the new line.

Libman will launch a sweepstakes next month with Menards to coincide with the start of the college basketball season, with the winners receiving VIP trips to the Big Ten tournament in Chicago.

The company also will have courtside and arena signage, and public-address announcements, as well as the visibility that will come with the T-shirts on the ballboys and the branded mops.

Libman’s designation will be the official hardwood floor-care provider of the Big Ten.

“We were trying to find a way to give our new product line some credibility and to put a strong name behind it. That’s where the Big Ten came in,” said Andrew Libman, a fourth-generation co-owner of the family business. “We’ve found it difficult to get into sports because our target demo is women 25-54. Now we’re broadening that out to target more men and women on the consumer as well as the commercial side. … Our products are made for hardwood floors, so a basketball deal made sense.”

Learfield and Libman began talks more than two years ago, but couldn’t reach terms. But with Libman launching the new product line and Learfield able to aggregate rights for the conference and all 12 schools, both sides came together on a deal that’s estimated to run mid-to-high six figures annually.

Eight of the 12 Big Ten school properties are operated by Learfield, so it was easy for Bailey to clear the assets there. Three other schools — Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska — are IMG College schools and they agreed to work with Learfield to bring Libman on campus there. Michigan State, one of the few remaining schools that runs its marketing and media in-house, agreed as well, giving Libman rights across the entire conference.

Each school property will receive a share of revenue from the deal.

Libman is working with the basketball programs around the conference to specially design mops for the games.

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