SBJ/June 17-23, 2013/Colleges

Agency seeking sponsors for Pac-12 rec departments

A Los Angeles agency has agreed to represent all of the Pac-12 Conference recreation departments in sponsorship sales.

Entertainment Management Group, the same firm hired to sell naming rights to UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, will take the lead on sales for the conference’s recreation directors.

“College students are on the cutting edge of many trends … and on-campus activation can offer significant branding and engagement opportunities for corporations,” said Joe Heitzler, chairman and CEO of EMG. “This partnership creates a great opportunity for value-driven sponsors.”

Recreation departments often have to generate half or more of their own revenue to cover operating costs. Student fees cover only a portion of the revenue that’s needed, said John Pariseau, the director of recreation at the University of Washington.

“Schools need the support of programs like this,” Pariseau said.

Mitch Huberman, the former head of Pac-12 Properties when it was managed by Fox Sports, will lead the sales effort for EMG. Huberman left Fox two years ago when the conference took its marketing rights in-house.

“I’ve heard a lot of sponsors complain that it’s really hard to navigate on campus,” Huberman said. “They want to engage with the students and find those opportunities that might be there on campus. We know that 85 percent of the students on Pac-12 campuses participate in recreation.”

EMG’s agreement is signed with NIRSA, the national association for campus recreation departments. NIRSA helped facilitate the arrangement with all of the Pac-12 schools.

EMG’s selling sponsorships to generate revenue for the schools while providing sponsors access to a valuable audience would be the best-case scenario, Pariseau said. He would like to see a company’s branding woven into a health and wellness theme.

“Some schools have sold sponsorships like this before, but we’ve never really ventured into it,” Pariseau said. “A lot of commercial entities have reached out to us before, but it usually doesn’t work. We hope we can come up with a program that’s palatable for each of the schools.”

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