In the same month that Yale revealed a historic apparel deal with Under Armour, the Ivy League as a whole was finalizing a brand-new partnership of its own.
The Ivy League announced last Tuesday that JMI Sports, an athletics marketing firm that also holds partnerships with the Pac-12 athletic conference, the University of Kentucky and Arizona State University, has become the conference’s official marketing-rights agency. The conference had previously worked with the Leverage Agency, which became partners with the Ivy League in March 2012 and helped secure its first-ever corporate sponsorship, with footwear brand JP Crickets, in January 2014.
The agreement, which originated from an Ivy League initiative last summer, is meant to enhance the sponsorships that the conference develops with corporations, according to JMI Sports President Tom Stultz.
“The key is that we wanted to partner with a company that was really interested in understanding what the Ivy League is as a conference, what we are going for as a league and who really wanted to respect the brand that we are and strengthen our condition in the marketplace,” Ivy League Associate Executive Director for Communications and External Relations Scottie Rodgers said.
The new deal means JMI Sports, which was founded in 2006, will be responsible for handling all of the Ivy League’s marketing rights, as well as helping connect the Ivy League brand with potential corporate sponsors, Rodgers said.
Rodgers added that since the deal was only recently finalized, there are still no specific details about upcoming marketing initiatives. JMI Sports is currently seeking an employee to serve as the partnership’s chief marketing officer, who will lead the partnership and act as the main contact for Ivy League administrators.
Interest in a marketing partnership developed last summer, when Ivy League administrators met to discuss the league’s marketing approach and ways to improve it moving forward. Rodgers said that after initiating a request for proposal and sending plans to numerous agencies, league administrators saw JMI Sports as the best fit of the nearly 20 responses received.
Although JMI Sports has deals with conferences and schools elsewhere in NCAA Division I, the firm wanted to partner with the Ivy League because of both the strength and innovation of its brand, JMI Sports CEO Erik Judson said.
“We are trying to be very selective in what partners we pursue, and we believe the Ivy League is such a strong brand,” Judson said. “We want partners who really appreciate the deal, and we are going to be focused on unique ways to enhance the Ivy League brand.”
Stultz said each corporate deal facilitated by JMI Sports will be customized for the “elite partners” the firm will seek for the Ivy League. Such partnerships could include opportunities for companies to recruit students or alumni through Ivy League sports, make an online presence on the Ivy League Digital Network, which broadcasts league sporting events, or sponsor a conference championship or series of championships, he said.
The new partnership encompasses the Ivy League in its entirety but does not include the marketing rights of any Ancient Eight schools, Rodgers said. He added that there will be working relationships and “some connectivity” between the schools and the Ivy League, and that he believes the benefits brought to the league will also extend to the individual Ivy League schools.
“The Ivy League has established a partnership with JMI Sports to expand the reach of and interest in the exceptional model of college athletics displayed by our eight outstanding member institutions,” Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said. “We are excited about this plan and look forward to working with the very experienced and successful leadership of JMI and their staff.”
Last summer, the Ivy League also welcomed bids for its media rights, since the conference’s three-year deal for the Ivy League Digital Network ends this year. Rodgers said there is no information to share on that front at this time, but added that Ivy League administrators hope to announce a plan for its media rights “sooner rather than later.”
JMI Sports has also done work for professional sports teams such as the Golden State Warriors of the NBA and the Boston Red Sox of the MLB.