Rutgers knew its move into the Big Ten would bring more interest — and hopefully more dollars — to the athletic program.
So far, it's been even better than expected.
The school has signed the two biggest sponsorship deals in its history, has increased the deals of just about every company that has re-signed and already has topped the total sponsorship dollars it had a year ago, NJBIZ has learned.
And John Willi, the general manager of Rutgers IMG Sports Marketing, feels there are plenty more dollars out there — even though the school has yet to start playing.
“Normally you have most of your deals done by the opening kickoff of football season, but since this is the first year for Rutgers in the Big Ten, we feel we'll have opportunities all year,” he said.
The two biggest sponsorship deals, with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and AmeriHealth New Jersey, are worth more than $5 million combined over five years, according to two people familiar with the deals.
The people requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the specifics. IMG also declined specific comment, citing company policy.
IMG, however, would say deals are up across the board.
Of the 23 sponsorship deals the school has signed for the upcoming year, Willi said 20 are “more significant” in either dollars or duration — and both in many cases.
Rutgers' Athletic Director Julie Hermann feels the school's relationship with IMG has been a big plus.
"We're extremely pleased with the expanded and new sponsorship agreements IMG College has secured for Rutgers," she said. "When we entered into our partnership with IMG College it was with the intent to maximize our potential through sponsorship agreements and media rights inventory consistent with our new Big Ten peers. This is tremendous progress in less than a year and another example of why IMG College is the gold standard in the industry."
The only bigger financial deal in school history would be the naming rights agreement Rutgers signed with High Point Solutions in 2011.
Hermann said that deal, worth $6.5 million over 10 years, has been a key to future deals.
"We're so fortunate to have an exceptional naming rights partner in High Point Solutions setting the standard for corporate support of our state school," she said. "Having High Point Solutions name on our stadium is an opportunity to associate with a global, best in class New Jersey company. Mike and Tom Mendiburu embody our 'Global reach. New Jersey roots' to the core."
The largest deals, first reported on NJBIZ.com last Friday, will make both the exclusive partners of Rutgers athletics within their industry and will bring additional benefits, such as the naming of two gates leading into High Point Solutions stadium.
Willi, however, said the benefits go beyond the gates.
“One of the most valuable things they come away with is the right to align themselves with the block R,” he said. “They can take that to market in their advertising.
“Studies show when you place that mark it raises the effectiveness of the advertising in the consumers' mind.”
Becoming an exclusive partner makes it easier for the school to get behind the brand, Willi said.
“The nature of what we do is relationship-based,” he said. “It's about justifying the investment. For a school, it's better to have one partner and drive their business rather than have four sponsors to satisfy.”
IMG national spokesman Andrew Giangola said the company, which services 80 colleges across the country, has seen interest tied specifically to Rutgers and the Northeast market it serves.
Rutgers, he said, was an important get for Keurig.
The single-serve coffee maker, eager to reach the college market, signed a 25-school deal with IMG, including Rutgers with other big-name schools such as Florida, Texas, UCLA and Nebraska.
Giangola feels such national interest will only increase.
“We see a lot of upside with the Rutgers program as the school brings in larger and more competitive opponents into the stadium,” he said.
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