If you have been to any Ohio State game in the past few years, odds are you have seen the handiwork of IMG College without even realizing it.
IMG College, a sports marketing company, buys multimedia rights to colleges, then resells those rights to corporate sponsors. IMG College has a 10-year, $107 million contract with OSU in what is the largest multimedia rights guarantee in collegiate sports. This year, IMG paid OSU $9.8 million for its media rights, which includes radio and television broadcasting and licenses to run gameday promotions, hospitality events and other services.
“Included within multimedia rights are signage opportunities, intellectual property ties between corporate brands and the Ohio State athletics brand, the radio network, local radio, the coaches’ television show, corporate hospitality,” said Ray DeWeese, general manager for OSU’s IMG Sports Marketing. “And then (there is) on-site activation opportunities – if the sponsor has materials that they’d like to pass out at games … anything that’s going to be a corporate acknowledgment with the OSU athletics department falls within our multimedia agreement.”
DeWeese said while IMG College oversees more aspects of the athletics program at some schools, it only controls the multimedia rights to OSU’s athletics.
“At other schools we have a ticket solutions group that handles ticket sales, (but) we don’t do that here at Ohio State,” he said.
The group handles other schools like Ohio University, Duke University and Kent State University.
IMG College doesn’t charge for its services. It makes its money by exceeding the guarantees it promises schools.
“What we do … (is) aggregate all of the multimedia rights, and then we pay the university a guaranteed fee,” DeWeese said. “Then we have the right to go out and resell those multimedia rights to … corporate partners, in order to make our money back.”
The OSU Athletic Department has employed the services of IMG College since 2009, said Diana Sabau, senior associate athletic director for strategic communications at OSU.
Prior to the contract with IMG College, the OSU athletics department did the marketing itself, Sabau said.
“We sold all of our sponsorships and all of our signage rights and radio spots, and all of that type of revenue generation was an in-house responsibility,” Sabau said.
DeWeese said before IMG College, several different companies were involved with different aspects of OSU’s multimedia rights.
“And then IMG came in and kind of centralized the entire thing, so that there’s really one point of contact for people in the market that are looking to associate themselves with Ohio State athletics,” he said.
DeWeese said IMG College wants to make the sports experience better for fans.
“We want to … bring brands that integrate well with what Ohio State is and what they want to do and try and bring value to our fans,” he said. “Obviously, Ohio State is a premier brand throughout the country, not just in college sports but in sports all around the world.”
IMG College had to bid for the rights, said Pete Hagan, OSU’s associate athletic director for finance. OSU put out a request for proposal, which is required for any deal for goods and services that is worth more than $50,000, Sabau said. Various companies bid for the rights.
“Basically, we work with the university purchasing department to write … everything that we want to include in this agreement,” Hagan said. “And then make sure that there are certain vendors that specialize in the college market that know that we’re going to have this proposal out if they want to make a proposal to us.”
When the 10-year contract ends, IMG College will have to bid for the rights again, Sabau said.
“I can tell you right now that the partnership is moving along in a really positive direction, and that we are enjoying our engagement with IMG and so are the sponsors that they solicit,” Sabau said. “I think the community benefits as well … Ten years from now … I have no idea … but we definitely have a strong and great partnership now.”