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Volume 21 No. 6


The University of Arkansas has agreed to a 10-year, $137 million multimedia rights extension with IMG College that will be among the most lucrative in the country.

Included in the guaranteed revenue will be $6 million that is earmarked for the installation of Wi-Fi at the Razorbacks’ football, basketball and baseball venues.

The average annual payout of $13.7 million, beginning with the 2018-19 academic year, will be an almost 90 percent increase over the previous deal with IMG College, which averaged $7.3 million. That original contract was signed in 2008 with ISP Sports, which later sold to IMG.

Arkansas’ deal puts it in line with some of the most recent deals struck by IMG College, including a $152 million agreement with Georgia (a joint venture between IMG and JMI Sports) and a $144 million deal with UCLA, both over 10 years.

Two other huge brands could soon have rich, new rights agreements that further reshape the market — Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Fighting Irish are currently in negotiations with multiple agencies, while the Buckeyes have been locked in talks with incumbent IMG College this year.

For the Razorbacks to get their deal with IMG College done before taking it to the marketplace “speaks strongly about the strength of the relationship,” said Tim Pernetti, IMG College’s president. Pernetti worked on the deal with Jeff Long, Arkansas’ athletic director, and Chris Freet, senior associate AD for external operations and strategic communications. Arkansas also has its licensing and stadium seating business with IMG under separate contracts.

“This further establishes the Razorback brand as a national brand, even though we’re in a small state,” Long said. “The IMG relationship has been a good one for both sides and we’re happy it’s going to continue.”

The extension does not include any naming rights to the Razorbacks’ facilities, but the investment into upgrading the technology inside the three main stadiums and arenas on campus was a focus. Arkansas is deep into talks with technology company AmpThink to handle installation and connectivity, although the deal has not been finalized.

The school intends to work with its technology provider to use Wi-Fi as a way to gather information about fans at the game and learn more about how they move around the venue. While the Razorbacks have information on their ticket buyers, they hope to learn more about those fans inside the venue who might not be in Arkansas’ database.

IMG College is starting a new business in the increasingly competitive tailgating space by providing food, drink and other party essentials for college football fans at the game.

The Tailgate Club will launch this season by providing its service at three schools to start: Kansas, Washington and West Virginia. The agency said it purposely limited the number of schools at launch to make sure the customizable service got off to a manageable start. While all three schools also work with IMG College on multimedia rights, the Tailgate Club will be available to any university.

IMG College will run into a tailgating space that is becoming more competitive with the likes of Tailgate Guys and Block Party Suites already in the marketplace. But the laser focus on improving the fan experience, something Tim Pernetti, IMG College’s president, hears on every campus he visits, suggests that there might be plenty of business to go around.

IMG College is working on the new business with IMG Live, the company’s experiential marketing and activation agency led by President Bryan Icenhower that works on close to 9,000 events per year. Pernetti and Icenhower first began collaborating on the idea of Tailgate Club earlier this year and together have developed Tailgate Club’s brand and website where fans and corporate clients place their orders.

Pricing ranges from $375 for a simple tent and chairs setup to $2,675 for a high-end production, which could include satellite TV, power, flooring and other amenities. Catering is available as well, and orders can be placed game-by-game or for the season.

IMG College is responsible for marketing, taking orders and fulfilling them. The idea, Pernetti said, is not to give the school any more to worry about on game day. The schools don’t pay a fee but provide the tailgating space and parking. IMG shares the revenue with the schools.

IMG College will be counting on its depth of relationships — it has multimedia rights deals with 75 colleges and licensing arrangements with many more — to give it a leg up in pursuit of new tailgating business.

“There’s not a campus out there that’s not talking about tailgating, fan experience and game day, so that’s where it all started,” said Pernetti, who sent a Tailgate Club primer to all 75 client schools earlier this month. He said he’s heard back from 55 schools already, so he’s encouraged that there will be no shortage of opportunities.

IMG Live also will go inside the stadium to work with schools on in-venue VIP hospitality, something it will be doing at Kansas and Washington.