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

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.

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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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