College Sports Offer Huge Audience, Sponsor Potential
It was an honor to represent Northern Illinois University at the Business of Sport Newsmakers Forum sponsored by the Business Ledger and the Daily Herald. While many of my fellow panelists spoke eloquently about partnering with sponsors at professional sporting events, I offered what I hoped to be a unique view of college athletics sponsorship sales from the perspective of a mid-major university.
While mid-major is not a term that I particularly like, I do think most people who follow college sports are familiar with it.
At NIU we are a proud member of the Mid-American Conference and while we play at the BCS level, the MAC is not afforded the coveted automatic qualifier status that many of the more well-known conferences such as the Big Ten enjoy.
Recently the Huskies have had some well-deserved success. For the first time ever we have won four MAC Championships (Volleyball, Men's Soccer, Football, and Men's Tennis) in one year. These accomplishments are directly related to the support we have received from our faithful fans, donors, and sponsorship partners.
College athletics has the largest fan base of all sports with 172 million people following their favorite school. In addition college athletics has a fairly affluent fan base with 29 million earning more than $100,000 annually.
One advantage for sponsors who work with intercollegiate athletics is that they have access to a student fan base which tends to align with brands that they will remain loyal to their entire lives. For example, I still have a BP credit card (formerly Amoco) that I received while I was senior in college. This is only gas card I have used for the last 35 years!
When I first arrived at NIU in June 2008 we started the process to outsource the athletics sponsorships with a third party rights holder. At that time the most prominent companies in this business were International Sport Properties (ISP), Learfield, and Nelligan. We had an in-house sales team in Athletics and the Convocation Center that was working well but selling sponsorships was not always their full-time focus. …