SBJ/April 22-28, 2013/Colleges

IMG College no longer selling deals for NCAA

IMG College no longer is contracted to sell NCAA sponsorships, ending a productive five-year run during which the company sold at least five corporate champion or partner deals.

NCAA rights holders Turner and CBS manage the sponsorship program, but IMG College has had the rights to sell those sponsorships since 2008.

Its arrangement with Turner and CBS expired earlier this year, making the Final Four in Atlanta the first championship since IMG entered the college space that it wasn’t selling sponsorships or running events for the governing body of collegiate athletics.

IMG College’s sales efforts led to a deal with Capital One as a corporate champion, and Hershey, Kraft, LG and UPS as corporate partners. Corporate champions (AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola) are the highest level of NCAA sponsors.

There currently are three champions and 12 partners in the NCAA’s program. There were nine champions and partners total when IMG began selling the program.

The agency had been receiving an annual commission for each of those five deals at about $600,000 for a partner deal and more for a champion, according to industry sources. That put IMG’s revenue from NCAA sponsorships at $3 million to $4 million a year.

Neither side would say why the relationship ended, but industry insiders said it was simply a matter of Turner and CBS believing that they can adequately sell NCAA sponsorships. The sponsorship program is part of the rights that Turner and CBS receive in their 14-year, $10.8 billion media contract with the NCAA.

Sources said there is a focus at IMG College on selling its own inventory as opposed to someone else’s. IMG College also sells national sponsorships across its 80-plus properties, which could be perceived as competition to the NCAA’s sponsorship sales.

IMG indicated that if NCAA sales opportunities arise, the company will still pursue them and lead them to Turner.

“Our relationships with media partners and the NCAA will often evolve over the course of time,” IMG said in a statement to SportsBusiness Journal. “While IMG College no longer formally represents the NCAA’s corporate partner program, we continue to collaborate with Turner in a variety of ways, including the pursuit of sponsorship sales opportunities that are in the best interests of our respective organizations and college sports.”

The loss of sponsorship sales continues an erosion of NCAA business for IMG College. At one time, IMG College also managed the NCAA’s ancillary events, including fan fests and concerts for its championships. That, along with licensing, publications and NCAA Football, gave IMG College a deep business tie with the NCAA.

Turner took back ancillary events beginning with the 2012 Final Four.

NCAA Football, a marketing platform established in 1997 by Host Communications and CLC to provide college football with a unified mark, is on the verge of dissolving as well, sources said. It’s best known for the licensing deal with EA Sports. NCAA champions and partners also have promotional rights to use the NCAA Football marks. That business does about $3 million a year in revenue from sponsors and licensees, sources said.

NCAA licensing does about $5 million in gross royalties each year, sources said. NCAA publications drive about $2.4 million in annual revenue.

Also: Saunders taking IMG marketing position.


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