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Volume 22 No. 43
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Wi-Fi firm Extreme Networks joins forces with IMG College

In an effort to motivate its clients to add Wi-Fi to their stadiums and arenas, IMG College has developed a relationship with Extreme Networks, a Silicon Valley-based network provider that works with several NFL teams.

Extreme has installed Wi-Fi and provided service for a half-dozen NFL teams as the league’s official Wi-Fi analytics provider. The company will now seek to expand its business in the college space, where relatively few stadiums have Wi-Fi.

Extreme already has completed one job at Baylor, prior to creating this relationship with IMG College. Auburn, Mississippi, Stanford and Wisconsin are among the other schools that have installed Wi-Fi throughout their stadiums with the help of other providers. Texas A&M will have it installed for the 2015 season when the Kyle Field redevelopment will be finished. The Aggies are using IBM.

Extreme is paying IMG College in the seven figures annually, according to industry estimates, to be the official Wi-Fi provider. The agreement calls for Extreme to buy a sponsorship from IMG College at each school when it closes a deal to install Wi-Fi.

Extreme also will have use of IMG College marks and testimonials for its marketing and business-to-business communications.

RICE
Norman Rice, Extreme’s senior vice president of corporate development, sees an opportunity in college sports because so few schools have installed Wi-Fi. The feedback from Baylor this season tells him that the younger crowds at college games are potentially a more viable customer base for Wi-Fi than the fans at pro games.

“When you look at data from Baylor versus other NFL venues, you see a much higher level of engagement with the younger demographic, in terms of game-day app, interaction and social media,” Rice said. “There is a proof point that you have a very highly astute, digitally connected demographic and they, for the most part, do not have the mechanism to connect.”

A first step in the sales process will be educating college decision-makers that the price tag to install Wi-Fi — $5 million or more, depending on the stadium’s infrastructure — will deliver a return, especially when many college administrators seem satisfied with the distributed antenna system, which delivers a stronger cell signal in their stadiums.

“Universities in general are more conservative and they’re trying to figure out how to approach this,” Rice said.

That’s where the strategic relationship with IMG College, which owns the multimedia rights to close to 80 colleges, comes in. The idea is that Extreme and IMG College will go to the colleges together, with IMG College making the introductions and both companies explaining the benefits, primarily boosting the in-game fan experience.

Andrew Judelson, IMG College senior vice president of national sales, led the process of selecting Extreme, whose NFL connections helped influence IMG College.

“IMG knows how to work with the universities and the sponsors, and we’re providing the platform for new methods of revenue generation,” Rice said. “Our sense is that the schools want their partner, like IMG, involved in the process.”

Installing Wi-Fi in a stadium takes 90 to 120 days, Rice said, depending on the existing infrastructure. Extreme has agreements with a couple of schools to install Wi-Fi for next season, but neither Extreme nor IMG College would identify the schools yet.

Rice advises clients to offer their Wi-Fi for free, as opposed to charging a game-day fee.

Extreme also has had talks with multimedia rights holder Learfield Sports about a similar arrangement.