SBJ/July 28-Aug. 3, 2014/Colleges

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  • Woo Pig suing?: Arkansas gets sound trademark for call

    University of Arkansas fans have been calling the hogs nearly as long as their Razorbacks have been playing football, making “Wooo Pig Sooie” one of the most recognizable cheers in collegiate athletics.

    Now the school is making its claim to the cheer legally binding by obtaining a sound trademark for the Hog Call.

    The trademarked cheer appears to be a first.
    Photo by: UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS

    Arkansas officials think it’s the first collegiate cheer or chant to be officially registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office as a sound or sensory mark.

    Harold Evans, a Little Rock attorney with the Williams and Anderson firm and the university’s outside counsel, registered the cheer with the trademark office. Arkansas’ costs for the sound trademark included the government filing fee of $325, plus attorney fees.

    SBJ Podcast:
    College writer Michael Smith and Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson discuss the increased competition in the college multimedia and licensing space, why it's happening and what it means going forward.

    Evans, who specializes in intellectual property and licensing, searched for other school cheers and chants but didn’t uncover any.

    Arkansas’ licensing agent, Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co., wasn’t aware of any other trademarked cheers, but CLC said it would need to do a more comprehensive search before calling it the only one. CLC, however, applauded Arkansas’ decision to protect a cheer that so closely is identified with the Razorbacks’ athletic teams.

    Candace Stimmel, Arkansas’ director of licensing, said the point of registering the Hog Call was to protect the school in cases where an entity might be commercially using “Wooo Pig Sooie” in a way that potentially harms the school or its athletics.

    “It’s not about trying to monetize this iconic piece of who we are. It’s more about protection,” Stimmel said. “We own that action, the Hog Call, and it’s registered under the university’s name. Now we can prove it, in case there’s ever something that comes up that’s potentially damaging.”

    It was last summer that Stimmel, Evans and university counsel Scott Varady first discussed the possibility of trademarking the Hog Call.

    Sound trademarks are most commonly used for sounds that are associated with a certain brand, like the NBC chimes or the Intel jingle. It’s often equated to an oral or musical signature for a brand.

    “We’re always having conversations about how best to protect the symbols and images associated with the university,” Evans said. “The Hog Call has been around since the 1920s and it is exclusively identified with the University of Arkansas. Trademark protection seemed appropriate.”

    Evans said he did a “complete search of every sound mark and not a single college or university registered a sound mark or cheer.” As for Arkansas being the first school to federally register its cheer, Evans said, “I’m confident it’s true.”

    Arkansas submitted several examples of audio and video showing Razorback fans calling the hogs. Some clips were general crowd shots at football games, while other videos showed individuals, such as Chancellor David Gearhart and Athletic Director Jeff Long.

    “They needed several very good examples of our fans calling the hogs,” Stimmel said.

    The federal office responded with the trademark earlier this month.

    Arkansas is regularly among the top 20 best-selling schools for CLC. In the latest rankings released in May, Arkansas ranked 15th. The Razorbacks ranked 10th for the 2012-13 fiscal year, when they topped $4 million in licensing revenue for the first time.

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  • Does IMG College face shifts in marketplace?

    It wasn’t IMG College’s best month, and changes in the marketplace promise more competition in two areas where the company has traditionally been dominant — multimedia rights and licensing.

    In a span of just over 30 days, IMG College lost the multimedia rights to the University of

    SBJ Podcast:
    College writer Michael Smith and Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson discuss the increased competition in the college multimedia and licensing space, why it's happening and what it means going forward.

    Kentucky, lost the licensing rights at Kentucky and Miami, and endured some ugly news at Syracuse, which broke its contract to seek a new deal.

    The loss of those rights, plus the potential increase in guarantees to retain Syracuse, could cost IMG College close to $5 million a year or more.

    Among the disappointments for IMG College in July: Syracuse (above) broke its contract to pursue a new deal, and Miami chose to move its licensing business to Fermata Partners.
    Photos by: GETTY IMAGES (2)

    Parallel to those developments was the entry of two new competitors with deep resources — JMI Sports in multimedia rights, and Fermata Partners in licensing.

    JMI Sports, led by former IMG College executive Tom Stultz, took the Kentucky multimedia rights away in a 15-year deal that guarantees the Wildcats $210 million. It is JMI’s first collegiate property, and it won the business in a head-to-head bid against incumbent IMG College.

    JMI’s bid was $30 million more than the final offer from IMG College, which brought all of its big guns to meet with Kentucky officials at a formal presentation in April, including Patrick Whitesell, co-chief executive of William Morris Endeavor; IMG Sports & Entertainment President George Pyne; IMG College President Ben Sutton; and Hunter Nickell, the senior vice president who ran point on IMG’s bid. IMG and JMI presented separately to a seven-person UK committee that included Jason Schlafer from athletics and other UK officials from finance and development.

    Even that show of strength wasn’t enough to counter JMI’s richer bid and deep ties the school has with Stultz, a Greenup, Ky., native. Stultz ran Lexington, Ky.-based Host Communications in 2004 when Host signed Kentucky to what was then a landmark 10-year, $80.5 million deal.

    “There’s not really anything you can say IMG did wrong. It’s what Tom Stultz did right,” said AJ Maestas, president of Navigate Research, a firm that consults with more than a dozen universities to determine their value but did not work directly with UK. “He knows the multimedia rights business well and he knows the margins.”

    The reality, Maestas and other industry experts said, is that IMG and Learfield, the two industry leaders, have undergone ownership changes in the last year and with that comes pressure to increase revenue and cut costs. WME acquired IMG earlier this year, and the Kentucky RFP represented IMG College’s first major proposal under new ownership. Learfield, which was acquired by Providence Equity Partners in September 2013, chose not to bid on Kentucky.

    Those two goliaths in the market still represent 89 percent — or 58 of the 65 schools — in the five power conferences.

    A spokesman said IMG College, which generated $487 million in 2013 revenue, made the most responsible bid it could, based on its knowledge of the UK property and future growth. IMG College officials would not comment further for this story.

    “We set out to find the best value for the university,” said Schlafer, the senior associate athletic director who spearheaded the request for proposal and selection process. “Obviously, the dollar value was higher with JMI and they made a solid case for the kind of white-glove customer service that really made a statement to us.”

    JMI’s deal with Kentucky, which will begin with the 2015-16 academic year, is believed to be the second-most lucrative multimedia rights deal nationally, behind Texas’ revenue-share deal with IMG College. Alabama’s recent 10-year joint deal with Learfield and IMG College is worth $16 million a year, but that contract includes rights — concessions, pouring rights, isotonic beverage, seat rentals and merchandise — not typically included in multimedia deals. Notre Dame’s multimedia revenue is a unique case because the school has its own TV contract with NBC.

    “It’s a marketplace that’s really evolving,” said Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens, whose school outsources its rights to IMG College. “You really have to have an understanding of your value. The Kentucky deal definitely makes you pause.”

    Perhaps just as important as the Kentucky outcome is the introduction of JMI Sports as a player in the multimedia rights market. Erik Judson, chief executive of JMI and a former Padres executive, said the San Diego-based firm will seek more deals where a premium property is at stake, like the one at Kentucky.

    “The fact that there’s a new player in the market has given schools reason to pause and want to learn more,” Judson said. “That’s not just good for JMI Sports, it’s good for the market.”

    But JMI will have its challenges. The difficulty in building a multimedia rights discipline is that schools rarely jump from one rights holder to a competitor, primarily because multimedia rights deals are generally long term, ranging from 10 to 15 years. That offers few opportunities for a newcomer like JMI to win new business.

    The UK loss marked the first time that IMG College has lost a property to a competitor since IMG acquired ISP Sports in 2010. The last major school to jump from one rights holder to another was Northwestern in 2011, when Learfield won the rights from CBS Collegiate Sports Properties.

    Not surprisingly, at least two other SEC schools, Mississippi State and Arkansas, were in talks to extend their multimedia rights deals but ended those negotiations in the wake of the Kentucky contract, wanting to take a closer look at the value of their rights. Arkansas is an IMG College client, while Mississippi State is with Learfield Sports.

    “We have seen a consolidation of multimedia rights holders in the last few years, but with the introduction of JMI into the arena, some universities like ours have paused on extension talks to re-evaluate the landscape,” Arkansas AD Jeff Long said. “Competition is generally a good thing for the university.”

    JMI’s commitment to build a small portfolio of big-school brands is similar to a strategy Stultz employed at Host, which had the rights to 14 schools, including Arizona, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, Kansas and Nebraska. That will serve as something of a model for JMI as it attempts to deepen its presence in the multimedia rights space.

    “Our goal is not to provide a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Stultz, who was at Host Communications and then IMG College from 2003 through 2011. “We’re emphasizing a top level of customer service, and that model dictates that it be done with a handful of premier properties. We’ll look for the right opportunities.”

    To be clear, Stultz and Judson say JMI is not trying to replicate the Learfield and IMG College models. Learfield owns the rights to 90 schools; IMG College 80. In most cases, those firms will have the advantage in bidding for schools, Judson said.

    But there will be cases where a school might find the services of a boutique firm like JMI attractive.

    “We’re in the business now,” Judson said. “We’re another alternative.”

    The significance of JMI’s robust $210 million guarantee to Kentucky, and the inclusion of a third major player in the multimedia rights market, “bodes well for other players in the market and for the schools,” said David Johnston, a co-founder of Rockbridge Sports Group, the firm that consulted with West Virginia on its multimedia rights deal with IMG College.

    “It also affirms that you don’t have to be part of a larger network of schools to maximize your value,” Johnston said.
    IMG College now finds itself deep into extension talks at Syracuse, where it is expected to commit an additional $2 million to $3 million more to the Orange’s annual guarantee of $4 million to keep those rights, industry insiders said, adding to the company’s expensive month.

    Like the Syracuse deal and other extensions in front of IMG College and Learfield, it’s possible that future agreements will cost the rights holders quite a bit more, thanks to the Kentucky deal.

    “Every athletic director in the country stopped and asked, ‘What does this mean for my value?’” said Rick Thompson, a former Learfield executive and UK administrator who now consults with schools. “They’re all looking at the Kentucky deal and saying, ‘Am I missing something?’ Did Kentucky just get lucky because of the timing and the relationship with Tom, or is this legitimately an industry-changing event? It’ll take time to understand it all.”

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  • Fermata gives evidence of licensing challenge to CLC

    With more than 200 licensing clients and a 96 percent renewal rate, Collegiate Licensing Co. has seldom felt much of a challenge from competitors. That appears to be changing.

    Atlanta-based Fermata Partners, a company founded by four former CLC executives, won two big pieces of licensing business this month at the University of Miami and the University of Kentucky. On top of that, Licensing Resource Group, a Learfield Sports company, won the licensing rights at Colorado State University and Temple University, two schools that had been with CLC.

    As CLC’s renewal rate attests, it doesn’t often lose business in the college space. CLC’s parent company, IMG College, said that 33 schools, conferences and bowls have renewed with CLC this year, including recent extensions with the University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia, among others.

    But industry observers have been waiting to see if Fermata would have the resources to provide a legitimate challenge to CLC. Kentucky and Miami provide the first evidence.

    SBJ Podcast:
    College writer Michael Smith and Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson discuss the increased competition in the college multimedia and licensing space, why it's happening and what it means going forward.

    “The licensing business is a mature space that requires innovation and reinvention to keep pace,” said Derek Eiler, Fermata’s managing director and former chief operating officer at CLC. “We are independent and unencumbered and can reinvent and adapt to change very quickly for our clients.”

    Eiler’s founding partners include Scott Bouyack, Chris Prindiville and Kit Walsh, each of whom were high-ranking executives at CLC. They formed Fermata Partners in 2011 but have had to wait out noncompete agreements before going after college business. Their noncollege clients include Little League Baseball, the Premier League and Cabela’s.

    LRG has been around for more than 20 years, offering an alternative for mostly midmajor and smaller schools. But Learfield acquired LRG last month with the intention of putting more resources into the licensing agency in order to make it a more formidable foe to CLC. Learfield President and CEO Greg Brown said the company, which owns the multimedia rights to 90 colleges, would use its connections from 40 years in the space to push LRG’s growth.

    — Michael Smith

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  • JMI, an underdog with a big bid, wins over UK

    Tom Stultz had just putted out during a round of golf last month in Pawleys Island, S.C., when he noticed a voicemail on his cellphone.

    “This is the call you’ve been waiting for, and now I can’t get in touch with you,” Jason Schlafer, the University of Kentucky’s senior associate athletic director, joked in the message.

    Stultz, who had engineered an upstart bid from JMI Sports to take over UK’s multimedia rights, wasted no time in returning the call. That’s when Schlafer relayed the news that the school had selected JMI’s staggering $210 million, 15-year bid, including a $29.4 million signing bonus.

    Schlafer
    “Just as we were hanging up, I could hear Tom let out this huge yell,” Schlafer said. “I’m sure they heard him all over the golf course.”

    In the world of collegiate marketing, this was Appalachian State beating Michigan in the Big House.

    JMI, which had no experience in the world of collegiate multimedia rights, outbid IMG College, with has rights to 80 schools, by $30 million in an upset rich with story lines.

    Stultz
    On a personal level, it was the sweetest of wins for Stultz, who turns 63 this week. He helped build IMG College’s business from 2008-11, after IMG’s acquisition of Host Communications. But Stultz left when IMG told him to move from his Lexington, Ky., home to IMG College’s headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C. In 2012, he joined JMI Sports to build its college business from scratch, and has since been consulting with the SEC, Oregon, Alabama and others.

    While JMI was a newcomer to the multimedia rights space as a bidder, Stultz’s presence gave the San Diego-based agency founded by former Padres owner John Moores an inside lane.

    SBJ Podcast:
    College writer Michael Smith and Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson discuss the increased competition in the college multimedia and licensing space, why it's happening and what it means going forward.

    Stultz knows the space and he knows Kentucky. It was Stultz in 2004 who shook up the marketplace with a groundbreaking $80.5 million deal that secured UK’s rights for Lexington-based Host Communications.

    A decade later, the Greenup, Ky., native has done it again.

    “Generally, the incumbent has the advantage, and a lot of times they renew early,” said Stultz, who now works out of Greenville, S.C. “Kentucky wanted to understand its real value. They wanted to make sure they weren’t leaving any money on the table. … And they were willing to dare to be different.”

    Even though five companies attended the pre-proposal meeting, only JMI and IMG College submitted bids on April 1. Schlafer at first was disappointed in the response, until he saw the numbers.

    JMI’s strategy was clear: present the school with two distinct options and attempt to differentiate JMI from IMG College as much as possible.

    If IMG College is the behemoth, then JMI is the boutique firm with the personal touch. JMI Chief Executive Erik Judson consistently referred to JMI’s “white-glove customer service” in the agency’s presentation, and Stultz adopted the phrasing. Both JMI executives told UK that they will be heavily involved in the property.

    JMI also emphasized branding the school. IMG co-brands its radio networks with the name of the school and IMG. For example, it’s the UK IMG Sports Network. JMI countered by saying that the network will use only the school’s name, not the firm’s.

    “We’re not branding ourselves, we’re branding the school,” Stultz said.

    While IMG College has built a network of schools across the country, which enables it to sell national sponsorships, JMI’s focus will be on local and regional sales.

    That resonated with UK, a school that in the past had opted out of national deals to protect local sponsors. When IMG College sold a national deal to Hyundai, Kentucky elected not to participate because of a long-standing relationship with Paul Miller Ford in Lexington. IMG College officials, however, said that national sales contributed $1.6 million in annual revenue to the property, revenue that will dry up.

    IMG College’s own presentation highlighted its deep resources, national sales and global strength. In its presentation to Kentucky, IMG touted its depth of 1,000 IMG College employees and a “back office” of 300 people to provide operational and administrative support.

    JMI used IMG College’s size against it. With IMG College, UK is one of 80 clients. At JMI, UK is the only client.
    “It’s nice to think that JMI will go to bed and wake up in the morning thinking about how to make UK stronger,” said Schlafer, who spearheaded the request for proposal process. “We understand there might be some risk with no scale, and the national deals can be attractive, but they haven’t really impacted us that much.”

    Added Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart: “For us, we become one of a very special group of clients for them. I always want Kentucky to be special for our partners. There’s no doubt they will be absolutely focused on us.”
    And then there were the numbers.

    The annual guarantees to the school were roughly the same between IMG College and JMI. IMG’s started at $10 million and increased to $14 million, while JMI’s started at $9 million and grew to $16 million.

    The big difference was evident in the signing bonus. JMI promised $29.4 million to be paid over the first two years of the deal. IMG offered $5 million paid over four years.

    UK’s RFP had requested bidders to present bonuses that could be used for installing Wi-Fi in Commonwealth Stadium, additional premium seats at Commonwealth, a new baseball stadium, video boards and other facility projects.

    JMI’s signing bonus not only provides UK with the capital to start funding new projects, it added credibility for a first-time bidder.

    “There’s no question Tom’s relationship with the university helped tremendously, but we won the deal because of his expertise in the industry and the financial strategy we have as a company,” Judson said.

    Going forward, the question looms: Will JMI be able to make money on the property? IMG College was generating almost $14 million in annual revenue from sponsorship and signage sales, the UK radio network, hospitality, publishing and other rights. JMI, meanwhile, has committed an average of $14 million annually. So where can it grow revenue?

    New inventory, including several naming-rights opportunities, will spur new revenue, JMI said, and the campuswide signage and sponsorship inventory will present new selling opportunities. Any nonathletic sponsorship revenue will be shared — 70 percent to the university, 30 percent to JMI. The firm keeps 100 percent of its naming-rights revenue.

    The only rights that came out of the old deal were third-tier TV, which included a live football game and five live men’s basketball games, inventory that now belongs to the SEC Network.

    Stultz emphasized that JMI took apart every piece of inventory and priced it out to ensure that JMI wasn’t digging too deep of a hole with its guarantee.

    “You do it by adding inventory, by working harder and working smarter,” Stultz said. “We’ve also got an aggressive plan to create non-live programming to replace what has been lost to the SEC Network. We see a huge upside.”

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  • CHS buys national deal from Learfield

    CHS Inc., one of the few Fortune 100 companies in the world with awareness issues, has bought a national sponsorship package from Learfield Sports to market its company through college football.

    Linda Tank, CHS’ vice president of enterprise marketing and communication, said most people don’t know what CHS does, even though the farmer-owned cooperative reported 2013 revenue of $44.5 billion, ranking it No. 62 on the Fortune 100 list.

    “We’re looking to grow pride in CHS with our farmers and elevate the brand,” Tank said.

    CHS, which describes itself as a global energy, grain and food leader, supplies resources and business solutions to its farmers and ranchers. Its business also includes Cenex convenience stores.

    SBJ Podcast:
    College writer Michael Smith and Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson discuss the increased competition in the college multimedia and licensing space, why it's happening and what it means going forward.

    Tank said CHS looked to college football because its farmers and ranchers have strong connections to the land-grant public institutions of the Midwest, many of which have agricultural programs. That’s where Learfield is geographically strongest. CHS is based in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., south of St. Paul.

    CHS’ sponsorship will wrap across 24 schools, 22 of which are represented by Learfield, including several in the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences. Additionally, CHS struck deals with Nebraska, an IMG College school, and North Dakota State.

    CHS, founded in 1929, made a three-year commitment with each school, and industry insiders pegged the 24-school sponsorship in the low seven figures annually.

    “We’ve done some things [with sponsorship] in the past, but nothing at this level, with this many schools,” Tank said. “This is the first time we’ve had such a comprehensive program.”

    CHS’ deal is heavy with in-game radio advertising and stadium signage. Martin Williams, a Minneapolis-based ad agency, is handling the creative.

    CHS also is working with Learfield and digital agency Think Social on a social and digital program called the Farm Family of the Year. Photos of farm families dressed in their favorite school’s colors will be submitted to an online contest through social media channels. Those photos will be displayed on video boards inside the football stadiums.

    “You’re always looking for that common thread that takes a brand across all of the schools, like Allstate with the nets program,” said Roy Seinfeld, Learfield’s executive vice president of national sales. “The farm families is a concept that can do that for CHS.”

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  • Silver Chalice arm goes to college

    A Boulder, Colo., digital agency is launching its first university website this week with the intent to challenge the two longtime leaders in the industry, CBS Advanced Media and NeuLion.

    SportsLabs, a technology arm of Silver Chalice, struck a deal with the University of Arkansas earlier this year to manage the Razorbacks’ digital rights, including the school’s official athletic website, an array of mobile applications, content and social media extensions. While SportsLabs has worked on a number of projects in the college space, Arkansas represents its first full-service university client for the college-focused agency.

    Most evident on the Aug. 1 relaunch of ArkansasRazorbacks.com will be the complete overhaul of its traditional look, which is being traded in for a design that will feature a single photo occupying the entire browser.

    SportsLabs is launching its site for the University of Arkansas this week.

    Mike Waddell, the Razorbacks’ senior associate athletic director for external operations, said he wanted to break away from the traditional college website, which mostly has the same look and content from one school to the next.

     “I wanted something completely different,” Waddell said. “We’ve got all of this great HD photography and we need to use it.”

    Arkansas, which previously had a digital partnership with NeuLion before switching, liked the new ideas pitched by SportsLabs to
    shake up the website design and give it more of a mobile or tablet look with oversized photos and minimal text. Roughly half of the traffic on ArkansasRazorbacks.com comes from mobile.

    The Dallas Mavericks’ official site, mavs.com, served as an idea starter for the new design, Waddell said, although SportsLabs does not manage that site.

    “The marching orders from Arkansas were to be different, to be cutting edge,” said Eric Foote, SportsLabs’ vice president of business development. “We thought mobile first, not Web, and that really took us to where we are. Big imagery, great photos, that’s the focus.”

    Inside the site, SportsLabs has totally revamped the player pages with more photos and easier-to-read text. Each team page will have that consistent look with one dominant photo across the screen.

    SBJ Podcast:
    College writer Michael Smith and Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson discuss the increased competition in the college multimedia and licensing space, why it's happening and what it means going forward.

    Additionally, SportsLabs this week will unveil a full suite of mobile apps for game day in football, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball, as well as apps for other sports.

    Since acquiring the rights at Arkansas, SportsLabs also has picked up the digital business for the College Football Playoff, while also working on Notre Dame’s WatchND platform and other digital products for Virginia Tech, the ACC and Mountain West Conference.

    John Burris, president of SportsLabs, said the firm will continue pursuing university digital rights, putting SportsLabs in direct competition with CBS, NeuLion, Sidearm, Presto and other digital businesses in the college space.

    “We’re not just looking to partner with a school and put up a site,” Burris said. “We’re jumping in at Arkansas to show off all of our strengths, from responsive Web, apps, content, social. Our intent is to grow, and build a business in this category.”

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