Yale Athletics maintains majority of corporate partnerships despite a year without games
Without any games, crowds or television broadcasts where fans see brand logos behind competing athletes, Yale has managed to maintain relationships with most corporate sponsors by diversifying the types of advertising it provides, delaying and extending certain contracts and renegotiating previously expired partnerships.
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Despite no competition for four consecutive seasons, Yale Athletics has maintained its relationships with the majority of its corporate sponsors, the department’s Associate Athletic Director of Advancement & External Partnerships Scott Lukas told the News.
Over a year ago, the Ivy League announced the cancelation of spring sports for 2020, and since then, Bulldogs have not participated in any athletic competition. Typically, most of Yale Athletics’s sponsorships entail displaying company signage at sports venues and events in exchange for advertising revenue. But without any games, crowds or television broadcasts where fans see brand logos behind competing athletes, Yale has managed to maintain relationships with corporate sponsors by diversifying the types of advertising it provides — through pushing off some contracts, extending certain other contracts and renegotiating previously expired partnerships.
“In general, you know, we’ve had to be very cognizant of our relationships with everyone,” Lukas said in a Zoom call with the News. “The reason why we call sponsorships … external partnerships is that it really is a partnership. It’s not just we get something for nothing, or we give something to get something back.”
Lukas said that Yale Athletics had to be “smart” about the way it approached its partnerships this year. With many companies suffering from financial hardships, the department had to be flexible when it came to delayed payments. In addition, Lukas said the department worked on being better partners on both sides of the relationship — by either giving partners the freedom to finalize their payments next year or by recognizing that Yale could not provide the same type of venue advertisement previously promised in the partnership.
With some contracts expiring at the end of last year, according to Lukas, Yale Athletics is working on developing new contracts to start next fall — especially since he and others hope for a return to athletic competition next year. Lukas declined to comment on what new partnerships his team is currently exploring, given the ongoing nature of negotiations.
“The Yale brand is strong in that a lot of companies will want to partner with it, and we actually have to be the ones to vet out who we use,” he said.
The Yale Athletics website still lists Coca Cola, LAZ Parking, The Study at Yale, Yale Medicine, Eli’s Restaurant Group, New Haven Register, Garden Catering, Abbey Tent and Party Rentals, Graduate New Haven and Connecticut Orthopedics as partners in a scrolling list at the bottom of the home page. Four partners did not respond to requests for comment, and two others declined to comment.
According to Lukas, of the contracts that have expired, some have been renewed, some have not and some have been entirely pushed to next year due to Yale’s inability to fulfill certain advertisement requirements. No games simply means no advertising during games, Lukas said.
“We’ve also tried to find creative ways to provide [sponsors] with some social media and digital content instead in lieu of what they normally would get at game,” Lukas said.
For instance, instead of the usual signage at games, Yale Athletics provided Graduate New Haven with Facebook advertising, which included a trivia competition promising a Yale Athletics Prize Pack and an overnight stay at the Graduate on Chapel Street as the final prize. Graduate Hotels has also served as the presenting sponsor for several video rebroadcasts of old games.
Megan Bosworth, director of sales at Graduate New Haven, told the News that Yale Athletics has been increasingly open to discussing other forms of advertising, whether marketing takes the form of a virtual event, social media or even email blasts.
“We’ve been able to strengthen our relationship with the athletics department,” Bosworth said. “They’ve been really oriented around trying to make sure that we can do some good marketing activities while the sports were not going on.”
Bosworth mentioned that Yale Athletics and Graduate New Haven have been meeting monthly or bimonthly to touch base on what has been effective and what has not been effective this past year. She said the hotel usually signs onto three-year deals with Yale with options to extend and renegotiate.
Dominic Ruggieri, opening general manager at Graduate New Haven, told the News that he is looking forward to continuing to frequently communicate while the hotel remains a Yale partner. He said that their partnership is more than just a contract — it is a “two-way street,” where both parties hold each other accountable.
Lukas hopes that come next fall, other companies and corporate sponsors will be in a better financial position to initiate or continue their partnership with Yale as the country exits the pandemic. With the possibility of sports competition in the fall, Lukas is optimistic that the gradual return of sports and spectators will once again increase demand for advertising.
“We are hoping that attendance at our games will be higher because it’ll be over a year and a half without games and things, so I think we have a lot to sell,” Lukas said.
With the goal of high attendance at next year’s potential competitions, Lukas told the News that Yale Athletics plans to increase the number of its corporate sponsorships. Like some other New Haven businesses, he also believes that Yale hosting the Yale–Harvard football game next fall presents another opportunity for growth.
The Study at Yale shares Lukas’s excitement for the upcoming fall. Heather Gayatgay, The Study’s director for brand marketing and communications, said that the hotel has not “received much benefit from the partnership this year” with campus half full and athletics on pause, but “absolutely” plans to continue the partnership “with no hesitation.”
“Our commitment to partnerships hasn’t changed as they are a valuable part of our business model,” Gayatgay wrote in an email to the News. “Our multi-faceted partnership with Yale and Yale Athletics enables us to showcase our relationship through a variety of channels. We enjoy being an integral part of the Yale community.”
The Study at Yale is located at 1157 Chapel St.
Nicole Rodriguez | firstname.lastname@example.org