Legends' Irish deal not a change of course
Legends has been working with Notre Dame since 2013, so it wasn’t that much of a leap for the firm to partner with JMI Sports on its first venture into college multimedia rights.
Don’t, however, expect Legends to start showing up to bid on every collegiate property that hits the market. Notre Dame presented a unique opportunity, given that Legends had a foot in the door, but this isn’t a change of course for the company, which also has helped Louisville and Oklahoma on premium seating and ticketing projects.
“We haven’t looked at the space like, ‘We’re going to go after multimedia rights deals,’” said Mike Ondrejko, Legends’ president of global sales. “This is a very unique brand and we want to deliver in the highest way for Notre Dame. And if we do that, the rest will sort itself out appropriately.”
Legends, which has assisted Notre Dame on the Campus Crossroads project to renovate the stadium and create a premium-seating plan, understood the school’s less-is-more approach to commercialism during the bid process. The Irish don’t have commercial signage in any of their venues and they don’t run sponsor messaging on their video boards, so Legends’ familiarity with those policies was a comfort for Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.
JMI, whose clients include Clemson, Kentucky and Georgia, has more experience with traditional multimedia rights, like running a radio network. That’s what led Swarbrick to come up with the idea for a joint venture between Legends and JMI Sports earlier this year. Neither firm was all that excited about it at first.
“The initial response from each, of course, was, ‘We’re confident we can do it well by ourselves,’” Swarbrick said. “It was just a matter of continuing the dialogue. We thought it was a better solution. We were just struck by the complementary nature of their culture and their strengths.”
The Irish closed the 12-year multimedia rights deal with Legends and JMI in recent weeks. No financial terms were released, but industry sources say Notre Dame is projected to make more than $10 million annually in a deal that includes both guaranteed revenue and a share of additional revenue depending on how sponsorship sales go. That’s up from about $7 million a year previously.
Swarbrick met with executives from Legends and JMI throughout last week, discussing staff size, leadership and location. For example, will the president of the property be based in South Bend, Ind., where the school is, or perhaps in Chicago? Other sales executives will likely be dispersed from New York to Chicago to the West Coast to give the Irish a national presence.
They’re also contemplating a rebrand of Notre Dame Sports Properties to a different name.
Legends’ Campus Crossroads deal continues through 2021 separately from the multimedia rights contract.
“If you look at our history, we’ve never been ones to go after volume on any of this,” Ondrejko said. “We’ve been more deliberate in what we’ve gone after and how we’ve gone after it. It’s a handful of the right properties and the right level of relationships versus trying to pick up the masses.”