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How athletics’ management handles sponsors

Verizon, Kane’s Furniture, Subway, Chick-fil-A. Go to a University of South Florida football game at Raymond James Stadium and the names of these companies will be frequently seen or heard by attendees throughout the game.

These names are among the many corporate sponsors that USF Athletics partners with as a way to not only get money for the department, but also expand the brands of those sponsors in the Tampa Bay area.

USF Athletics doesn’t scout for sponsors on its own, though. Like many other university athletic departments, they hire a third-party company to manage the process.

IMG Worldwide is a national company responsible for the management and promotion of USF as well as other collegiate athletic departments such as the University of Florida, Syracuse University and the University of Cincinnati.

According to Jason Capel, general manager of the USF/IMG sports network, IMG owns the right to promote USF to potential sponsors on a local and national level.

“IMG owns the rights here at USF, so our purpose is to cover our investment and make money because we’re a sales company,” he said. “The more money we bring in, the more money USF Athletics gets. It goes hand in hand.”

Although USF is still in the process of creating their contract with IMG, a previous contract obtained by The Digital Bullpen outlines the rights a sports management company has when marketing USF Athletics.

The previous contract allows for a management company to have worldwide license to “market, manage, and sell [USF’s] multimedia and sponsorship rights.” Such rights include official websites, radio and certain television play-by-plays, promotional materials, radio coaches’ shows and television coaches’ shows.

Based on the previous contract, USF was paid a flat fee by the management company as a form of consideration for granting the company multimedia and sponsorship rights. In addition to this fee, the university received 50 percent of the gross cash revenue obtained from sponsorships during each contract year. These dollar amounts increase each year as defined in the contract.

For the 2007-2008 contract year, USF received the guaranteed fee of $1,276,000 with an increase of $100,000 each year.

By using a private, third-party company like IMG, universities and other sports organizations do not have to worry about sponsorship contracts being made public record.

“A lot of it is the clients don’t want dollar amounts to get out there because it’s not really for public knowledge,” said Capel. “You know, how much Company XYZ is investing with USF or with any other team that we operate.”

Having IMG manage USF Athletics also prevents the university from being limited to regional sponsors and allows them to reach out to national companies like Verizon, said Jeannette Mena, assistant professor of marketing at USF.

“They know how the handle these contracts, they have the relationships to get the networking done,” she said.

In order to get sponsors for the athletic department, management companies conduct research to determine which sponsorships would best benefit the university as well as having staff members reach out to businesses to “preach the word of USF,” said Capel.

To maintain those sponsorships, management contracts may include stipulations where the university has to provide a certain amount of tickets to different sporting events.

In USF’s previous contract, the university had to regularly provide, at no additional cost, 350 season tickets to football games, 500 individual tickets to football games over the course of a season, 50 season parking passes to football games, 250 men’s basketball season tickets and 50 men’s basketball parking passes.

They also have the ability to purchase tickets to any bowl or tournament games USF teams participate in, with at least 50 percent of those tickets being in VIP seating areas.

Such a stipulation prompts sponsors to see their investment in action.

“It’s for them to see what they’re investing in, for them to entertain their clients and grow their businesses,” said Capel. “Everything we do is to grow people’s businesses through college sports and tickets are just another way for them to say thank you to their clients.”

As seen in USF’s previous contract, the management company also assists with representing USF when naming any future athletic facilities, attempting to get a Spanish-language broadcast for football games, and attempting to get non-conference football and basketball games broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

Management companies also provide the university with stipends to print promotional material for athletic events.

The Digital Bullpen previously found a New York Times article from last year regarding IMG’s chairman, Ted Forstmann, and his involvement in a lawsuit after gambling on college football and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

When asked as to whether USF was concerned about using a company involved in such an issue, Capel said the university was not concerned as the lawsuit had been dealt with.

“That I really can’t comment on and nor would I because I don’t know much about it,” he said.


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