For this first time since its inception, the Ivy League has begun pursuing corporate partnership.
The Ancient Eight has partnered with Leverage Agency — the same agency that arranged the Rivalry On Ice game at Madison Square Garden — to promote branding and accomplish that goal.
On Jan. 9, JP Crickets, a collegiate casual footwear brand, and the Ivy League signed a multi-year partnership, assisted by Leverage Agency, to issue the “Official Dress Casual Footwear of the Ivy League,” as stated in an official press release by the Ivy League office. Through partnerships such as the one with JP Crickets, the Ivy League hopes to promote the quality of competition associated with the Ivy League, according to Executive Director of the Ivy League Robin Harris. She added the Ivy League hopes to use the revenue from this and other future partnerships to fund Ivy League Championships for various sports. In return, corporate partners will have the ability to market to the Ivy League student and alumni market.
“It’s really a win-win situation for both entities because the corporate partner has the opportunity to tap into the Ivy League student and alumni base and to have a presence at our championships,” Harris said. “It provides an avenue to deliver the championships and events. Our schools pay for championships otherwise and corporate partnerships help subsidize the cost.”
It is not the first time the Ivy League has associated itself with branding; however, it is the first time the Ancient Eight has approached sponsorship as a blanket encapsulating the entire league. In April 2010, the Ivy League worked with Waterbucket Media to work out a corporate sponsorship agreement with Champion athletic wear, but the partnership was only for the 2010 Ivy League men’s and women’s lacrosse tournaments.
In March 2012, the Ivy League announced its partnership with Leverage Agency to “procure sponsorship opportunities for the conference as well as provide other marketing functions, including social media, public relations and domestic licensing,” according to the Ivy League Website.
Harris said that the League worked with Leverage Agency to accomplish time-consuming yet rewarding and essential tasks such as public relations and marketing that serve the Ivy League well to outsource.
The “Power Five” conferences — the Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and ACC — have worked to acquire corporate partners such as Allstate, Gatorade and Nike, while the Ivy League has built its reputation and paid for championship events largely on its member schools’ budgets.
However, Leverage Agency has been working to acquire additional corporate partners with the Ivy League in addition to JP Crickets, according to Ben Sturner, CEO and founder of Leverage Agency.
Sturner said he sees the partnership with the Ivy League as an opportunity to heighten awareness and interest in Ivy League athletics and the Ivy League brand.
“I think it creates more excitement around the league itself,” Sturner said. “It helps provide resources for the Ivy League office. It costs money to do that, and we’re helping raise funds to help the league grow.”
Sturner cited the ideals behind the Ivy League as motivations in attempting to partner with corporations. Similar to the Ivy League’s position of aiming to uphold the traditional collegiate student-athlete experience amidst rule changes in the NCAA, he said that Leverage Agency believes the connections that come with the Ivy League can help build a brand.
“To be an Ivy League student takes a great deal of work, preservation and perseverance, and these are categories that can be the right fit for the right brand,” Sturner said.
The relationship Leverage Agency is building with Yale and the Ivy League as a whole will continue to develop through the years, according to Sturner.
Since Leverage Agency was founded in 2005 in Sturner’s apartment, it has already assisted the signing the Ivy League’s first corporate partner, put together the Rivalry On Ice contest — in which both former NHL star Mark Messier and Secretary of State John Kerry made appearances — and is currently working on procuring more corporate partners for the Ivy League.