The REAL Business of Naming Rights Deals on Campus

August 10th, 2017 | by Dan Gale
The REAL Business of Naming Rights Deals on Campus

Naming Rights

Last week Dr. Terry Eddy wrote an interesting article Why Naming Rights Deals in College Athletics are Complicated Business. In this article, Dr. Eddy examined the perception of Naming Rights Deals by reviewing past studies and fan behavior. The article was informative on fan insights and highlights the academic research regarding comparisons between professional sports naming rights deals and the collegiate partnerships that have been announced. The Dr. Eddy’s assessment that the current deals in place are the ‘tip of the iceberg’ is spot on!

To take the article one step further, one must examine the BUSINESS deals that are put together for future naming rights partnerships to have success. In talking with many industry leaders this is an untapped area at all levels and can offer an increased revenue source for athletic departments facing declining revenues in other areas.

To develop these partnerships, the agency/ multimedia rights holder must address the assets they have at their disposal to formulate a true partnership with a Naming Rights prospect. As was seen at the University of Maryland in 2006 when they partnered with Chevy Chase Bank to name the field at then Byrd Stadium, there was more than a just a branding play involved. Campus wide banking and ATM services were included on top of the traditional branding and marketing assets offered through the partnership. The value was not at the level of the current partnerships, but was the beginning of a major trend.

What these current and past deals show Universities that are looking for naming rights partnerships in the future is that there is more to these deals than a branding play. The following are three key aspects that will help lead to a successful partnership

1) Naming Rights Partnerships Need Campus Wide support

As shown by the Maryland example and seen by the recent partnership struck by JMI Sports for the University of Kentucky, campus support is essential in achieving the proper partnership for Naming Rights Deals. By incorporating campus assets and access to students, any University can structure successful partnership options for suiters.

There needs to be a synergy and strategy in place to increase the reach to students, alumni and the community. Having this strategy in place can help to detract from some of the potential implementation and public relations challenges.

2) Make sure all Brands align by doing your Homework

Many of you may recall the 2013 incident when Florida Atlantic University sold their naming rights to a for-profit prison operator, Geo Group (Florida Atlantic Geo Group Stadium Naming Rights). The move received tremendous backlash ultimately leading the school and partner to abandon the plan. Not only did this create a negative impression of FAU, but it has now made the stadium nearly untouchable by future partners.

When one is entertaining offers for naming rights, be sure to vet all possible scenarios by partnering with an external group to help offset the negative perceptions touched by Dr. Eddy in his article. By doing this you can also ensure the activation of the deal will work for the partner and the school.

3) Naming Rights are becoming part of Multimedia Rights Deals

Naming Rights partnerships on campus used to be reserved for philanthropic donations by individuals. However, over the past few years there has been a change in philosophy on some campuses. A key part of the $210 Million Dollar partnership JMI Sports made with Kentucky hinged upon finding a naming rights partner. This gamble allowed Kentucky to receive a higher rights fee and gave JMI additional assets to coincide with their campus partnerships.

Too many times campuses look to other organizations to value and sell naming rights than their rightsholder. This can cause heartache, pain, and loss of revenue. Many of the assets truly needed for Naming Rights must be taken from Multimedia Right Deals.

Why wouldn’t it make sense to have the same group handle both and get more upfront money?

This is going to be a trend you will continue to see moving forward.

In summary, Naming Rights deals are a complex business, but if you have the right structure and vision in place one can maximize the return. You need to be sure the support and buy in occurs before you have your representative test the waters. Only then will you be able to ensure that your brand aligns with the right partnership and can receive maximum value for the opportunity.

Dan Gale About Dan Gale
Dan Gale has been working in and around college athletics for the past 15 years. He has worked in fundraising and operations at the University of North Carolina, Temple University and East Stroudsburg University. He spent the bulk of his career at CBS Collegiate Sports Properties in leadership roles at the United States Air Force Academy, Old Dominion University, Towson University and University of Maryland. Upon leaving college athletics, he spent four years in the private sector building companies focusing with college athletics in the areas of technology and secondary ticket sales. He is currently the President of Leona Marketing Group, helping athletic departments formulate their revenue generation strategies and negotiating their multimedia rights.

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