Iowa's contract with Learfield nets athletics department more than $5.8 million

Marketing deal sweet for coffers

Published: September 2 2011 | 7:00 am - Updated: 2 April 2014 | 10:13 pm in

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa's marketing contract with Learfield Communications will net the athletics department more than $114 million by 2026, according to documents supplied to SourceMedia Group by the University of Iowa.

In 2009, Iowa officials renegotiated a multi-media contract with Hawkeye Sports Properties — a subsidiary of Learfield Communications — that was signed in 2006. The initial multi-media contract ran through 2018. The renegotiation included a clause that allowed Hawkeye Sports Properties to sell sponsorship naming rights to the floor at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the outdoor club level at Kinnick Stadium. Mediacom acquired those naming rights last winter.

Hawkeye Sports Properties will pay Iowa's athletics department $5.807 million this year as a guaranteed annual rights fee. That number grows to more than $8 million in the 2025-26 school year. Hawkeye Sports Properties then recoups that money plus its other expenses — such as salary costs for Iowa's broadcasting crew — through attracting corporate sponsorships.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said through Hawkeye Sports Properties, the school has 120 sponsorships.

Through the renegotiation, Iowa will earn more than $700,000 this calendar year and nearly $44 million more through 2026.

"The contract is such between the two of us that they have a responsibility to go out and solicit corporate sponsors, and we have final approval on anything they do," Barta said.

This summer Hawkeye Sports Properties negotiated a sponsorship deal with the Iowa Lottery netting $103,000. Hawkeye Sports Properties also worked recent sponsorship agreements that included naming rights with Iowa Farm Bureau (the America Needs Farmers northwest corner of Kinnick Stadium), Hy-Vee (the annual series with Nebraska) and the Iowa Corn Growers Association (the annual series with Iowa State).

There's also the potential for selling sponsorship rights to the other Kinnick Stadium corners, which are designated for Iowa's bowl teams, Big Ten championship squads and All-Americans, Iowa Associate Athletics Director Rick Klatt said.

"We look at those things, and we have to determine if there's an opportunity or an interest from the naming rights to a pure donor perspective and whether there will be opportunities in the new football facility, I don't know yet," he said.

Klatt said he was approached by about naming the field at Kinnick Stadium, but Klatt said, "I think that conversation was had once, and it was very brief."

Iowa's athletics department could make even more money if Hawkeye Sports Properties reaches a revenue share hurdle of $10.1 million in sponsorship sales this year. Hawkeye Sports Properties would receive an 18 percent commission on all sales above $10.1 million.

"We haven't reached revenue share when we've been in a multi-media environment," Klatt said.

Klatt said Hawkeye Sports Properties previously exceeded revenue share hurdles when Iowa had a radio-only relationship. Iowa and Learfield have a long-standing radio relationship spanning about 30 years.

Some schools prefer to pay fully share revenue with their marketing firm, which most are ran by either Learfield or IMG, Klatt said. Iowa chooses the up-front payment instead.

"From a marketing perspective, I'm not Penn State where I have millions more people living in my state," Klatt said.

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