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

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.

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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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