SBJ/July 20-26, 2015/Colleges

Van Wagner signs first college rights contract with FIU

Van Wagner’s new collegiate multimedia rights business is on the board with its first deal.

The agency has signed Florida International University, a Conference USA school, to a seven-year agreement that will pay the school an average of $600,000 annually, while also providing the opportunity for revenue sharing if Van Wagner hits its sales goals.

“We put our rights out for bid five years ago and there were no takers,” said Pete Garcia, FIU’s director of sports and entertainment. “This time we met with eight companies and had three proposals. So we’ve come a long way. Van Wagner offered the best deal financially, and they were the most aggressive.”

Garcia also liked the idea of being Van Wagner’s first client.

“They believe in us, in where we’re headed,” he said. “For now, we’re the marquee property for Van Wagner, not one of 25 or more.”

In the five years since FIU first sought a rights holder, the school has moved into Conference USA, built its own football stadium, completed a $10 million renovation to its basketball arena and lifted its competitive stature.

Garcia also has aggressively pursued noncollegiate events for his facilities in Miami, including a coming Miami Dolphins scrimmage in the Panthers’ football stadium. He’s working to bring international soccer clubs to FIU for events and training, as well.

“That’s going to mean a lot of additional exposure for our sponsors,” Garcia said. “A lot of people also don’t know that we’re the fourth-largest school in the country with 55,000 students, and we’re committed to getting to 65,000 in the coming years. I think Van Wagner saw the trajectory of this school.”

By outsourcing the rights, FIU expects to save $200,000 or more annually in costs. The Van Wagner deal kicked off this month.

Van Wagner opened its collegiate services division late last year and brought in Mike Palisi as executive vice president in December to run the division. Palisi had spent 14 years at Nelligan Sports Marketing before Nelligan was sold to Learfield last year.

“It’s incredibly significant to get an institution like FIU because they have all the ingredients for long-term success,” Palisi said. “They’re in a top-10 media market and they’re a program on the rise.”

Van Wagner will put a staff of three sales executives on the FIU business.

Palisi indicated that Van Wagner has several more college deals pending.

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