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Volume 21 No. 13
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IMG College gets a seat at pro stadiums with cushion deals

IMG College is going pro.

The company’s stadium seating business, which has a broad base of college clients, is expanding to the NFL by signing deals with the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills. Those agreements will enable IMG College to install its seat cushion product in both teams’ stadiums, and the company is talking to other NFL teams as well.

Fans can lease the cushions for $50 a seat for the entire season.

The expansion of IMG College’s seating business into the pro football ranks comes after the company built a client base of more than 130 college stadiums. The only other exposure the seating business has outside of college sports is with a handful of NASCAR tracks.

At Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium and Tennessee’s LP Field, IMG will be installing its MVP seat, which is a seat cushion that fits onto the back and bottom of a fold-down seat, and features the logos of the teams.

Direct mail and email marketing to season-ticket holders began last week and on the first day IMG recorded 600 sales, about 300 each at Buffalo and Tennessee. Fans lease the seat cushions from IMG College for $50 a seat for the entire season. The cushion, which straps onto the bottom and back of the permanent seat, stays in place throughout the season, so there’s nothing for the fans to carry in and out of the stadium.

IMG College is responsible for any maintenance on the cushions. It negotiates revenue-share arrangements with the teams, just as it does with its college clients.

“Every stadium has a different seat size or design, and we custom-fit these cushions to any stadium’s seat,” said Franklin Yancey, who along with John Hite runs IMG College’s stadium seating division, both at the vice president level. Yancey and Hite report to Mark Dyer, a senior vice president who oversees IMG College’s ancillary businesses, which are those outside of multimedia rights.

IMG College will install its MVP seat cushion, which fits onto the back and bottom of fold-down seats and features team logos.

Yancey and Hite, a pair of Virginia Tech graduates, were partners in stadium seating when they launched the business as students in 1999 under the name College Comfort. IMG acquired it in 2010 and with it created a new stadium seating division within its college line.

The company was founded to add comfort to stadium seating, largely by putting seat-back chairs onto bleacher seats. But the seat cushion, which IMG calls its MVP seat, is the company’s latest development. Hite and Yancey tested the cushions at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Rose Bowl last season during Southern California and UCLA games. Feedback was good, so they moved forward with the cushion sales.

Earlier this year, IMG College acquired a premium license from the NFL, which gave it the ability to go negotiate with NFL teams. Talks continue with multiple teams, and Yancey and Hite characterized the next three months as their prime selling season.

On the college front, IMG College already has been in talks with several of its school clients about the MVP seat cushion. Many of them, including Notre Dame, Alabama and Arkansas, are using the cushions as an amenity in their club areas, and others are considering making them available to the entire season-ticket base.

Hite and Yancey intend to take the cushion and seat-back rental business beyond football. They’re looking at baseball, soccer and just about any other event played in a stadium.

IMG College has begun selling advertising on its college cushions and seat backs. Such an arrangement has not been reached with the NFL yet, they said, but they are in talks to potentially add a commercial component.