Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Restricted Sponsorships and Outsourced Marketing in Division I Intercollegiate Athletics

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Restricted Sponsorships and Outsourced Marketing in Division I Intercollegiate Athletics

Article excerpt


In 1989, Dr. William Friday, former president of the University of North Carolina, met with other university and collegiate presidents from around the nation to discuss the growing problems with intercollegiate athletics. The group expressed their concerns about reoccurring detrimental trends and decided to form a task force to suggest recommendations for reforming college sports and its role in higher education. The group is today known as the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics deriving its name from grant funding received from the Knight Foundation. This group has been a major advocate for keeping college sports from becoming too much like its professional counterparts (Knight Commission, 2005). Subsequent and smaller advocate groups such as the Drake Group (Yaffe, 2005) and Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (Miller, 2005), both consisting of faculty members, have followed the Knight Commission's lead in trying to reform the problem areas of college sports.

In examining intercollegiate athletics in its initial report in 1991, the Knight Commission found that the woes of college sports could consistently be traced back to three glaring concerns: certification, academic integrity, and financial integrity, all of which they recommended, should fall under greater presidential control (Knight Commission, 1991). Ten years later, the Foundation, in issuing a follow-up report, found that the three main concerns were the arms race, academics and commercialization (Knight Commission, 2001).

The final concern by the Knight Commission is the one that is going to be addressed in this research. It is the issue of "commercialization" in college sports with regard to corporate partners such as Nike or Coca-Cola using student-athletes as walking billboards. There is also the concern of television having too great of an impact in intercollegiate athletics (Knight Commission, 2001). Examples of this would include ESPN broadcasting mid-week football games or CBS Sports having a billion dollar television contract to broadcast the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament while student-athletes competing in the event are not paid.

This study focuses specifically on the area of "commercialization" with regard to the idea of schools having corporate partners such as Budweiser, Virginia Lottery or the Mohegan Sun Casino. Corporate partners help the athletic department earn additional revenue in exchange for advertising at the sporting events. Some schools are able to handle its corporate partnerships with in-house marketing departments. However, the growing trend for major Division I-A schools is to outsource its marketing efforts to an outsourced marketing company that specializes in the sales of inventory such as commercials on the radio broadcasts or coaches' television show, corporate hospitality at home sporting events, signage at athletic facilities and more (Zullo, 2000). Subsequent research by Li and Burden in 2002 and 2005 confirm Zullo's findings.

Unpublished research in 2000 found that the main outsourced marketing companies were Host Communications, International Sports Properties (ISP Sports) and Learfield Communications (Zullo, 2000). At that time, Action Sports Media was an emerging outsourced marketing company and Nelligan was based out of the Northeast. Today, Host Communications is known as IMG College, Action Sports Media is no longer in existence after being bought out by its competitors and CBS Sports Properties (formerly Viacom) is another player in the industry. The study, in congruence with Li and Burden's research of 2002 and 2005, also found that of those schools that were partnering with an outsourced marketing company, the outsourced company was expected to handle sales while the in-house marketing department shifted its attention to promotions and increasing attendance and ticket sales. The outsourced company would maintain a "property" at the school with the property serving as an extension of the parent company. …

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