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Volume 20 No. 42


The new Atlanta-based College Football Hall of Fame has 10 sponsors on board and several more that are close to signing, giving it more than $50 million in funding to get construction off the ground.

Builders will start constructing the hall of fame in downtown Atlanta in January or February with a targeted opening of fall 2014. Total cost of the facility is expected to be $66.5 million and organizers hope to cover the full amount in sponsorships and donations, although they will have access to credit from a variety of banking partners: BB&T, Regions and Fifth Third.

The list of sponsors is heavy, as expected, with companies that have ties to Atlanta or the state of Georgia. Among them are Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, AT&T, Chick-fil-A and the Chick-fil-A Bowl; Georgia Pacific; Georgia Power Foundation; and Brasfield & Gorrie, a global construction firm with headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., and a local
Work on the College Football Hall of Fame will begin in January now that more than $50 million in sponsorships have been secured. National Football Foundation Chairman Archie Manning (left) is shown with Atlanta Hall Management interim CEO John Stephenson and NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell.
office in Atlanta. Brasfield & Gorrie built the Georgia Aquarium near the hall’s site.

Three other global companies have jumped on board as well: Kia Motors, Under Armour and Omni Hotels. Omni has a hotel property close to the hall’s site and will figure prominently in the catering business generated by the facility, while Kia has a plant in West Point, Ga.

Those initial 10 sponsors and two others the hall isn’t ready to name have committed $51.5 million, mostly through five-year, $5 million to $6 million commitments from each sponsor. A handful more are close to signing, said John Stephenson, interim CEO of Atlanta Hall Management, the organization overseeing the hall’s move from South Bend, Ind., to Atlanta.

“The intention is to clear the final $15 million that we need within the next two years,” Stephenson said.

The hall is selling three tiers of sponsorship for multiyear agreements, according to industry sources. The highest level, which comes with presenting sponsorship rights to certain galleries of the hall, goes for $1 million to $1.25 million per year, with the hall seeking five-year commitments that come with category exclusivity. A secondary level runs $500,000 annually, and a third tier of sponsorship costs around $250,000 a year.

Coca-Cola, Kia, Chick-fil-A and AT&T are believed to be at the high end. Their deals grant them either presenting sponsor rights or heavy integration into galleries that will feature players, coaches or other aspects of the game. Other sponsorships will align companies to areas such as the theater. It won’t be unlike the nearby Georgia Aquarium, which is segmented into separate themed areas with each having its own sponsor.

The details of which sponsor will be aligned with which section of the hall are still being worked out, said Stephenson, a corporate attorney who grew up in Atlanta and graduated from the University of Georgia.

Stephenson took the baton as the hall’s chief executive from Gary Stokan, president of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, who stepped aside a year ago. Stokan had overseen the first two years of the hall’s planning, but as the facility moved closer to becoming a reality, the strain of handling both jobs became too much, so Stokan relinquished his hall duties.

College Football Hall of Fame

Location: Atlanta
Projected cost: $66.5 million
Targeted opening: Fall 2014
Project manager: Cousins Property, Gude Management
Architect: TVS Design, Turner Associates
General contractor: Brasfield & Gorrie, Benchmark
Exhibit designer: Gallagher & Associates
Media production: Cortina Productions

Stephenson, who had been working on the hall’s business as an attorney with his firm, Troutman Sanders, took over as interim CEO and for the past year carried the project forward. The hall will be located next to the Georgia World Congress Center and within walking distance from other attractions, such as the World of Coke, the Georgia Aquarium, Georgia Dome and CNN Center.

“As a native Atlantan, I’ve looked at it from the perspective of, ‘Are we amplifying our already burgeoning tourism industry in downtown Atlanta?’” Stephenson said. “We had to figure out if we could really max this out and, if not, we just weren’t going to do it. … This had to be sold as an attraction, that has a hall of fame in it.”

Stephenson said the deals that have closed so far have been a collaborative sales effort among John Christie, the Hall’s CMO; Brad Olecki, vice president of sales; Stephenson; and Rick Jones’ Fishbait Marketing, which was brought on to extend the hall’s sales reach.

The hall’s business model projects 500,000 visitors a year, which is more than most halls of fame draw, but fewer than its neighbors, the World of Coke and Georgia Aquarium, bring in. Those attractions draw between 1 million and 2 million visitors a year.

“There was a healthy skepticism before, but there’s been a real effort from everyone involved to figure out how to make it more than a football museum,” said Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s chief marketer. “It’s going to provide great hospitality opportunities, a media platform, a place for great events. The [National Football Foundation] has been patient with us, but we’re going to have something everyone can be proud of.”

Annual revenue from admissions, retail sales and events are projected to be $9.5 million, Stephenson said, with a full-time staff of 22 people. Sponsorship is built into the construction costs, but not the annual revenue numbers. That far surpasses the revenue that came into the previous College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, which has been at that location since 1995. According to the National Football Foundation’s Form 990 for 2011, the College Football Hall of Fame revenue came in at $1.313 million, but only $177,314 of that came from admissions.

The not-for-profit hall is a licensing agreement between the rights holder, the National Football Foundation and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. At 500,000 visitors a year, the hall will turn a tidy profit, Stephenson said, which will be reinvested into the facility. The facility’s break-even point is 380,000 visitors.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame, which opened in May 2010 in downtown Charlotte, attracted 272,000 visitors in its first year and is on pace for about 200,000 this year, despite projecting close to 800,000 for its opening year. That turned out to be a fraudulent projection that contributed to the demotion and eventual ouster of Tim Newman, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority’s CEO.

For sponsors, the baseline assets are visibility in the facility, a digital presence on the hall’s website, and promotional activation with the hall’s marks. The website,, goes live this week.

There also could be hospitality opportunities when the enshrinement ceremony is held each July. The induction ceremony is annually held in New York in December, but the enshrinement is a separate function to honor the inductees at the hall site each summer.

Several potential assets are being evaluated by the hall and the National Football Foundation’s president and CEO, Steve Hatchell. One is the possibility of sublicensing video in the NFF’s archive and the names and likenesses of hall inductees.

Organizers also are preparing the facility to be a friendly site for media events, such as ESPN’s “College GameDay” or any other broadcasts that might originate from the hall. Stephenson said several areas of the building will be wired for broadcasts, but organizers decided not to build an actual studio because of the expense and the premium on space.

The ACC’s Michael Kelly will be the chief operating officer for the new college football playoff system, which is beginning to put together a staff that will be based in Dallas.

The new organization, which will not be named the BCS when it moves to the playoff system beginning with the 2014 season, will oversee the semifinals and championship game.

Championship games in the current BCS setup are run by the host bowl. The new playoff games — even the semifinal games at bowl sites — will be managed by Kelly, Executive Director Bill Hancock and the conference commissioners.

“We’re committed to building a robust organization,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, a member of the search committee. “What we’ve essentially done in the past is outsource the championship game to the bowls. In the new playoff system, we’re going to be more independent and, frankly, we’re looking to elevate the championship game to a higher level of presentation. This is an important step in the process. The new COO will oversee all of the event management associated with the semifinals and finals.”

Kelly said the new office in Dallas will operate similarly to the NFL’s special events department.

“The way the NFL works with the local organizing committees in the host city for the Super Bowl will be somewhat like what we’re doing with the championship game and, to an extent, the semifinals,” Kelly said. “We’re going to take the championship game and make it one of the great annual events in the country.”

Kelly, who led organizing efforts for three Super Bowls in Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami, will begin his new role after the bowl season in early 2013.

He has spent the last five years at the ACC in Greensboro, N.C., where he was hired in 2007 to run football, broadcasting and communications as a senior associate commissioner. That primarily entailed fixing an ACC football championship game that had struggled with attendance in Jacksonville and Tampa, before finding success in Charlotte the past two years.

Kelly will relocate to Dallas, where he will report to Hancock and the commissioners of what’s currently known as the BCS. Hancock and Kelly will be responsible for building out a staff that will orchestrate the new playoff system beginning with the 2014 season.

The commissioners of the BCS are working on a branding campaign that will include a new name for the college football postseason once the playoffs start.

“Michael gives us someone who has presided over three Super Bowls and he knows this space,” Scott said. “He’s regarded as a leading expert in this field. He’s got a nice combination of pro and college experience.”

It’s uncertain how many people will be hired for the new office in Dallas. That will depend on how much of the organizing efforts for the championship game are outsourced to local organizing committees and how much is handled by the new playoff staff.

When Kelly starts, he will work with Hancock to handle the bid process for the three “access” bowls, the rotation for which bowls will host semifinals, and future championship sites.

The search for the COO position was managed by Jed Hughes of Korn/Ferry International. Scott, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher serve as the committee of commissioners charged with building the Dallas office.

The NCAA’s 75th anniversary celebration will include a first March Madness art collection that features tournament champions and their coaches.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches has commissioned renowned sports artist Opie Otterstad to create 74 paintings representing the coaches of the first 74 NCAA tournament champions. The 75th will be painted after the 2013 Final Four is decided in April.

Artist Opie Otterstad will produce paintings of NCAA tournament champions and coaches, such as UNC’s Dean Smith.
The pieces of art will be unveiled throughout the college basketball season and sold as originals and limited-edition reproductions as a fundraiser for the NABC’s foundation.

“We’ll go to each of the campuses for the unveiling,” said Rick Jones, whose South Carolina-based Fishbait Marketing represents the NABC and is managing the program. “Because in many cases we’ll be bringing back the winning coaches or members of their family, it will be a special night at these unveilings.”

“These are the greatest coaches and teachers in the history of college basketball,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s vice president of men’s basketball. “This is a great way to honor these coaches and their place in the tradition of March Madness.”

The first unveiling will be Nov. 29 at Connecticut, where three separate paintings of Jim Calhoun’s three national titles will be displayed. The tour will continue to campuses around the nation where the basketball team has won a national title since the tournament started in 1939.

There are 35 schools that have won it all, represented by 47 coaches. Of those 47 coaches, 23 are deceased. Many of the 24 remaining coaches are still active, so in some cases they might be represented by family members at the unveiling.

Fishbait is working with the TV networks that will broadcast these games so that there’s a mention of the unveiling and the auction on air. The schools also will promote the auctions on their websites.

The day after the unveiling, the original artwork will go to auction at with an opening bid of $6,000. The auctions will last about 10 days and will be managed by Limited-edition reproductions will go to auction a week after the unveiling with an opening bid of $475. A coffee-table book containing each of the pieces will go on sale later next year for $15 and will be published by MomentumMedia.

The NCAA also will incorporate the art into Bracket Town, its fan fest at the Final Four in Atlanta, as part of its 75th anniversary celebration.

“This collection will be a unique reminder of these coaches’ accomplishments,” said Jim Haney, executive director of the NABC.

Fishbait licensed the NCAA’s special 75th anniversary marks, as well as the marks of the schools, from Collegiate Licensing Co., an IMG College company. The marks will be used in the promotion of the program.