SportsBusiness Daily – May 2, 2017 – By Michael Smith –
It became obvious that the Univ. of Kentucky’s stadium naming-rights deal would be out of the ordinary when Kroger never asked about traditional athletic assets like tickets or gameday hospitality. Instead, the Cincinnati-based grocery chain asked questions about reaching UK students and parents on campus, and the best way to market ClickList, the store’s version of online ordering. In the end, it was the campuswide activation that got the deal done. The deal represents a huge win for UK multimedia rights holder JMI Sports, not just for the revenue from Kroger, which JMI keeps, but also because it is a clear indication that campuswide marketing, which has been met with skepticism in some corners of collegiate marketing, can create value for both the buyer and seller. JMI’s UK Sports & Campus Marketing President Paul Archey, who led negotiations with Kroger, said, “The Kroger deal doesn’t get done without campuswide assets.” Critics of such deals have claimed that working across campus is too difficult. Most rights holders like JMI have relationships and experience in athletics, but not the academic side. Aside from pouring rights or the occasional bank deal that puts branches on campus, there are not too many deals that have gone campuswide. But when JMI won UK’s rights in ’14, which included a $29M signing bonus, the company included rights to sell sponsorship assets that stretched beyond athletics. JMI sold UK on its ability to create nontraditional deals. That came into play with Kroger, which had never done a stadium deal. Archey: “The challenge was how to make this work. They were interested in a comprehensive agreement that would be more than just putting a sign on a stadium, so we had to create programs that would extend beyond branding and into campus and the community.”
CONNECTING WITH STUDENTS:
Much of Kroger’s activation, like a proposal to sponsor K Week — when students move in — will put the brand on campus and its coupons in the students’ information packets. Talks have also centered on a student shuttle from campus to area Kroger locations, as well as an ad presence for the store in UK mobile apps. At games, fans with Kroger cards could have their own gate. Archey: “The campuswide marketing piece showed them that there could be an ROI. What it shows is that selling athletics and campus together can be very complementary. It’s a great case study to see how we can deliver against it. Over time, it could be a way to prove the concept.” JMI also has campuswide marketing at Clemson, where the company just recently won the rights, and it also has worked with Arizona State.