The college space in the sports marketplace remains one of the hottest, especially with the mega-ratings and brand engagement that the elite conferences bring. Couple that with March Madness, and smart marketing in the Mid-Major space, and college is at or near the top of many “like to haves” for brands.
However what about below the elite level? What about brands that can’t afford or aren’t interested in the big spend and high risk, high reward space of the elite conferences? There are hundreds of schools that play at the Division II and III level across the country, many with great success on the field and in the classroom in population centers big and small, and with loyal alumni bases, that have never really been activated against in the aggregate. Similar to minor league baseball, there have been few successful attempts to harness all those assets at that level; nationally and regionally, and find a solid sauce that can appeal to brands, and worthwhile in both dollars and activation for the schools.
Enter into that space a relatively new venture, Collegiate Sports Management Group. While there are major players in the major college space like Learfield and IMG College, CSMG is looking below the DI level to find synergies, economies of scale, consensus and value for both brands and schools. Their success thus far has been building, and the buy in from smaller conferences is steadily coming, with the fall targeted as a major expansion point.
We caught up with Mike Schreck to talk about the opportunity, and the challenges, that the small college space faces today.
What is the value proposition for bands investing in colleges below Division 1?
The value proposition is extended/incremental reach for brands associating with NCAA IP/Media. Very uncluttered environment, category exclusivity, opportunities to white paper and customize the assets they want to own. Reaching/engaging with new student/athletes and alumni.
Is it similar to what someone could do with Minor League Baseball?
Yes it is very similar model and MiLB is starting to have success in selling their aggregate value in select categories just as we anticipate doing at the Division II and III level.
Is there media involved, and if so how much exists today and what type?
Right now games and shoulder programming is streamed by each school and companies like the Pac Network/Bridgeport TV, Some are steaming championship games but not monitoring the inventory. American Sports Network (national TV) also just signed a deal to carry 26 Football/Mens/Womens hoops games for 2016/2017 seasons. We are in active conversations with other TV Networks to carry games as well, as we are outlining the OTT and social media strategies for our conferences and schools.
With colleges of so many sizes how do you control inventory?
We are aggregating intellectual property and other assets across Division II and III conferences and universities, selling media and sponsorships around these events along with related content , partnering with production companies and/or facilitate production and broadcasting of all sporting events (create or enhance as necessary).
For Division II and III conferences and schools, this creates the scale & resources needed to: Deepen engagement across multiple media outlets with students, alumni, and the school community. Improve the quality and quantity of college applicants. Produce higher quality content and monetize it along with sponsorship, rights, marks & logos, and other assets. Have access to an effective professional sales force and best in class technologies
Rights to be secured, aggregated, and monetized by Collegiate Sports Management Group are inclusive of, not limited to: Conference/School Rights, Marks, and Logos, including licensing rights, Digital and Static Stadium/Arena signage, PA announcements, posters, fan guides, roster/schedule cards, ticket backs, Integrated media rights: radio, television, in-venue video experiential, print (e.g. game day programs), content hub, Venue rights: (such as pouring/beverage) as well as corporate hospitality functions, fan fests, “meet team” day, Merchandise and licensing rights (as applicable), Digital/Social/Mobile media rights including streaming, and E-Commerce rights.
Can you tailor programs to specific regions or schools?
Yes we can. The goal is to be able to sell national sponsors over time but Regional and local companies are looking to get involved.
What categories are ripe for such an offer?
Insurance, Financial services, Hotel, Telecomm, Auto, beverage- companies that are trying the reach the student/athlete demo as well as alumni when they are starting to make brand preferences and decisions for their future.
Where do you see this market being in the next few years?
More and more companies continue to get involved with the Division 1 level on the sales side; IMG College, Learfield, Fox, Van Wagner, JMI, etc so there is obviously great value there. I think this market place will continue to evolve and now that we live in a digital/mobile world I think that opens up a lot of opportunity outside of what is existing or being sold today.