SBJ/April 1-7, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

NCAA sponsorship delivers business customers for UPS

UPS has developed new business-to-business opportunities through its NCAA sponsorship that has it shipping everything from Final Four tickets to the actual court on which the semifinals and final of the men’s basketball tournament will be played this weekend.

With that broadening of its business-to-business relationships, the shipping giant projects its NCAA-related revenue this year will be five times what it was a year ago.

UPS started its NCAA sponsorship in 2010.
Photo: UPS
“Over the past few years, the college platform has really blossomed for us,” said J.W. Cannon, the company’s director of sponsorships and events.

Cannon said recent shipping and logistics deals with businesses like Colonnade Group, Turner Events and Populous are central to UPS’s effort to extract new revenue from the NCAA partnership.

UPS already has the shipping business for the NCAA directly — work that includes transporting the playing court to the Georgia Dome from Michigan, where the manufacturer, Connor Sport Court, constructs its courts. The company also has an agreement with WW&L Ticketing, the company that designs and produces the NCAA’s tickets. UPS ships about 30,000 Final Four tickets to purchasers, some as far away as Australia and Japan.

The NCAA sponsorship, which started in 2010, does not guarantee UPS any business with other NCAA partners, but it does open the door for discussions, and many of those talks have led to new business. UPS’s original NCAA deal was for four years at $8 million to $10 million a year. With this being the final year of the deal, renewal talks are under way, the company said.

“Sports and entertainment are relatively new spaces for us, in terms of freight and shipping,” said Hugh Allen, managing director of UPS’s entertainment logistics, a new focus created in the last year within the supply chain solutions division. Allen oversees the NCAA-related shipping for playing courts, concert stages and other events.

Special delivery
Some numbers associated with UPS and the Final Four

100: UPS trucks and trailers being used to transport material to Atlanta for the Final Four
1,056: Driving hours.
63,408: Miles covered.
25,000: Temporary seats being delivered to the Georgia Dome

Note: Numbers represent UPS hauls for the NCAA, Connor Sport Court, Populous, Colonnade Group, WW&L Ticketing and Turner Events.

Source: UPS

“What we’ve found is that a lot of companies didn’t really know our capabilities,” he said. “A big part of leveraging our NCAA deal is showcasing the full suite of our solutions. People see the UPS trucks and the guy in brown delivering packages to the door, but we have evolved into a much more robust, solution-oriented company.”

One big chunk of new business this year comes from the Birmingham, Ala.-based Colonnade Group, which creates the unique seating arrangement around the court for the Final Four. The court for this year’s game will be built on a 3-foot-tall stage in the middle of the football field at the Georgia Dome. Colonnade builds the temporary seating around the court that extends out to the permanent seats.

UPS’s freight arm used close to 50 trucks to move all of the equipment — steel posts, decking, actual seats — needed to build those temporary seats from a warehouse in Birmingham to Atlanta. Some of the seating was to be used this past weekend at the South Regional in Arlington, Texas, before being shipped to Atlanta this week for the Final Four.

In all, roughly 100 trucks and trailers are being used to transport the equipment needed to build infrastructure for the Final Four and other consumer-facing events like concerts and fan fests.

Allen pointed out that there’s a lot of orchestration that goes into that transportation, as well.

“You can’t have the seats arrive before the steel posts,” he said. “You also can’t have a bunch of trucks all show up at the same time. There’s no room for that. Everything has to be staggered to fit a schedule.”

That sounds a lot like the logistics commercials that UPS has been running during the tournament game broadcasts. Florida coach Billy Donovan, former player Lisa Leslie, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas and CBS analyst Greg Anthony are ambassadors for UPS this year. Donovan has been the central figure in UPS’s primary commercial for March Madness.

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