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Volume 20 No. 42
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Learfield brings Campus+ sponsors to two schools

PNC Bank, with its name already on North Carolina State’s arena, has branched out on campus.
College sponsorships typically are a way for the local business to put its brand on the scoreboard, buy a 30-second spot on the radio broadcast and take its best customers to the game. But the companies that sell those sponsorships are trying to modernize the model with what’s now being called campuswide marketing deals that combine athletics and campus for the sponsor.

Learfield has closed two such sponsorships in recent weeks that could provide a blueprint for its new Campus+ sales strategy. PNC Bank will be a campuswide sponsor at North Carolina State and Dignity Health will have an all-campus presence at Cal State Northridge.

Both deals are the first of their kind at the two schools and include traditional sponsorship elements from athletics combined with nontraditional assets across the university. Costs for Campus+ deals like these can range from the high six figures into the seven figures.

“The holistic nature of this deal is really unique,” said Jim Hansen, regional president at PNC.

Learfield launched Campus+ as a division under former California administrator Solly Fulp earlier this year to introduce campuswide marketing to its clients. Fulp previously was one of the few — maybe the only — college administrators in the country whose sole job was to sell sponsorships across the school’s campus. With Cal churning through its reserves in the face of budgetary deficits, the school turned to Fulp to find new revenue streams. He closed five deals in nearly three years in that role.

Learfield hired him in the summer to bring that campuswide sales expertise to its 125 colleges that have multimedia rights deals; six of the schools have signed on as Campus+ clients.

Learfield Campus+ Partners

Cal State Northridge
North Carolina
North Carolina State
San Jose State
Texas A&M
Other rights holders, such as IMG College and JMI Sports, are working on campuswide marketing deals for their schools as well.

“We’re looking at situations where, instead of having six banks on campus, what if we had one?” Fulp said. “We feel like there is a desire to go deeper on campus. When you look at the declines in state funding, these challenges are not going away, so schools are beginning to look at partnerships like these.”

N.C. State and Northridge were two of the first Learfield schools to raise their hand when the company began introducing Campus+. Their new sponsorships represent the first two victories for Learfield’s new campuswide marketing strategy under Fulp’s leadership.

PNC, which already had naming rights to the Wolfpack’s basketball arena, through the Campus+ sponsorship, will add the designation “Official Bank of N.C. State.” The bank will place nine ATMs around campus and open a branch as well. N.C State has other banks’ ATMs on campus for now, but they will be removed as those deals expire and eventually PNC will be the only bank on campus.

PNC also intends to create on-campus financial literacy workshops for students and to offer Wolfpack-branded debit cards.

On the athletics side, PNC was presenting sponsor of N.C. State’s game against Syracuse on Saturday. The bank also will benefit from many traditional assets like tickets and hospitality, radio ads, digital ads and signage.

The two deals are separate agreements, with the campuswide contract going out 15 years and the athletics deal good for four years.

“The biggest challenge is just thinking through all aspects of campus and who a financial partner might touch so that we have all of the right people around the table,” said Brad Bohlander, N.C. State’s chief communications officer. “With the ATMs, for example, we’ve got to get our real estate people and our facilities people involved to upgrade certain spaces. We need the office of student affairs involved to talk about how we utilize the funding. It just touches a lot of people on campus who don’t usually work together in this manner.”

The CSU Northridge deal with Dignity Health — the official community health partner — stands out as the largest sponsorship deal in the history of the school.

Dignity, whose side of the negotiations went up to CEO Saliba Salo, will have a branding presence across campus in the performing arts center, student union and recreation center, as well as access to the CSUN alumni association. Dignity also will work with students in Kinesiology and other departments on research projects.

“This is a dream come true for us,” said CSUN Athletic Director Brandon Martin. “You’re talking about two of the largest employers in this area getting together.”