Recent discussions surrounding the marketing and lucrative branding deals of college athletics have often focused on power conference schools such as the University of Maryland and the University of Wisconsin. Perhaps for the first time, however, an Ivy League institution can be added to the list of schools translating amateur athletics into major money.
Reportedly valued at $16.5 million over the course of 10 years starting July 1, the new deal is much larger than all previous or current deals at other Ivy League schools, according to Yale Intercollegiate Equipment Operations Lead Assistant Jeffrey Torre. Yale athletics administrators explained the magnitude of the deal by noting that it will go beyond providing the Bulldogs with apparel and equipment: Under Armour and Yale plan to build on each other’s strong market presence to further extend the reach of their own brands.
“If you sell both Notre Dame and Yale T-shirts in … other countries, I put our brand up against any other one,” Yale Associate Athletics Director Marketing and Licensing Patrick O’Neill said. “We will help [Under Armour] internationally.”
Under Armour is currently the second biggest sports brand in the United States, behind Nike but ahead of Adidas. The brand usually sponsors “big sports schools” such as Notre Dame, Maryland and others, Torre said.
Under Armour’s deal with Notre Dame, finalized in 2014 and valued at $90 million over the span of 10 years, was the largest apparel deal in the country before being eclipsed by other schools since then. With Maryland, Under Armour is committed to $33 million in 10 years.
Although both deals are significantly larger than Yale’s, the Bulldogs are set to receive more money in the upcoming 10 years than many other schools well-known for their sports programs, such as Rutgers and Iowa.
“Rutgers [is] sponsored by Nike, and some of their sports play on national television,” Torre said. “They are getting $450,000 a year from Nike, so the magnitude of our deal covers way more than what schools like those are getting.”
Yale also outshines its peers in the Ivy League. According to Torre, Yale’s partnership with Under Armour is “definitely the biggest deal in our league, by far.”
Brown, Princeton and Dartmouth are all currently contracted in an all-sports deal with Nike. These sponsorships were not as publicized as the recent one at Yale, and administrators at all three schools declined to specify the exact length or value of the partnerships.
Cornell has had a similar deal with Nike in the past but is currently unaffiliated with any particular brands, according to Cornell Associate Director of Athletics for Communications Jeremy Hartigan. Penn also currently lacks an all-sports deal, but according to Penn’s Director of Athletic Communications Mike Mahoney, the athletic department is looking to acquire one. Harvard athletic administrators could not be reached for comment.
Though the Under Armour deal is a first for the Ivy League, Torre does not think it will set a standard for more highly valued Ivy sponsorships in the future.
“Nike and [other companies] are not in the market of investing that much money in Ivy League partnerships,” Torre said.
According to Yale Varsity Sports Administrator Kevin Discepolo ’09, interest for the deal originally came to him from Under Armour. Discepolo, who is on the board for the Tewaaraton Award for the most outstanding NCAA lacrosse player, was approached at a finalist dinner by an Under Armour representative who mentioned that the company was interested in acquiring Yale as a school.
He added that much of Under Armour’s interest in Yale stems from the strength of the “Yale name,” both nationally and globally.
“When it comes to [Under Armour’s] portfolio of college athletics, they have the Notre Dames, the Marylands, but Yale adds a different dimension and complements the teams they already have,” O’Neill said.
As part of the contract, Under Armour is also allowed to use the Yale name in its advertisements and sell Yale apparel at multiple venues, Torre said. Although Under Armour already has a licensed agreement with the Yale Bookstore, under the new deal, more products will become available.
In addition, Under Armour will be working with sporting goods retail stores such as local Sports Authority and Dick’s Sporting Goods locations to set up racks dedicated to Yale athletics products. Under the contract’s terms, the same products with the Yale name can also be made available on Under Armour’s website.
Discepolo noted that the partnership’s benefits will work both ways, as Yale’s athletic department will also see increased publicity due to the Under Armour brand name. He cited an Under Armour Instagram post announcing the new partnership that received around 20,000 likes — far more than anything the athletics publicity office has received before, he said.
“Yale sports are on the cusp of national presence, so I think with [Under Armour’s] help and with the performance of our student-athletes it will align for us to get more national exposure,” Discepolo said.