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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What is Learfield and/or Learfield IMG College and what do they have to do with US colleges?

Many people come across my blog because they are interested in licensed sports products and perhaps have an idea of a licensed product of their own but don't know where to start to turn their idea into reality. I am a consultant to just that type of person so feel free to contact me, and/or you might be interested in my 12 part series "An Insider's Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products in 12 Parts: Practical Lessons from the Trenches". Now let's get to the subject at hand...

The US college licensing landscape has changed a lot in the last handful of years, and the top dog by a country mile is Learfield, or more formally Learfield Communications LLC. They primarily do business as Learfield IMG College.

Learfield IMG College logo

I wanted to do a blog posting about Learfield IMG College because if you are involved in licensed sports products and you are either a current US college licensee or are looking to become a collegiate licensee, you should know something about Learfield.

I think of Learfield as having a bunch of different divisions - they are generally related to college athletics, but that isn't always the case, and my guess is that their next five years will see them get into pro sports whenever and wherever they can. But let's stick with the here and now. Learfield has what I would call nine divisions. Here are those nine divisions in Scott Sillcox's order of size/revenues generated for Learfield IMG College (not revenues generated for their clients). For people interested in sports product licensing, the primary division you should be very much aware of is the first division listed below, CLC, and you can pretty much zip past the other divisions described below. But I would also argue that you should understand the relationship between the first two divisions listed below: CLC and Multimedia and Sponsorship Rights. Later in this posting I will explain why I think it's important...

1. CLC 
- This is the Licensing Division which manages the product licensing program for 700+ colleges and universities, as well as conferences, Bowl games, championships, etc.
- If you haven't read my overview of the US college landscape, please have a read to fully understand where CLC fits in the big picture of US college licensing.
- CLC is a collegiate licensing agency resulting from the 2018 merger of two industry pioneers, IMG College Licensing and Learfield Licensing Partners.
- CLC is the Licensing division focused on licensing administration, brand protection, trademark infringement, etc.
- CLC has roughly 120 employees.
1075 Peachtree Street
Suite 3300
Atlanta, GA 30309
Ph: 770-956-0520
W: www.clc.com

CLC logo

2. Learfield IMG College Multimedia and Sponsorship Rights

- This division manages the sponsorship rights and multimedia (think advertising sales) for 200-ish collegiate brands including 180-ish schools, a number of conferences and several venues.
- What this looks like for a typical school is a team of somewhere between one and six people who are either located on the school campus or very nearby. This team of people work for Learfield IMG College but in many ways they appear to be employees of the school, which is a good thing.
- If the average school has three Learfield staff, then this division has roughly 550 employees.
- To get an even better understanding of what this division does for each school, and they do different things for different schools, see this list of their 200-ish schools which links to a detailed description of exactly what they do for each school. It also shows you who the actual employees are and how to reach them.
Let's look at two examples at either end of the spectrum:
Ohio State and 12 employees
Fordham University and one employee
- This division is the result of a 2018 merger between IMG College (which repped 100-ish schools for multimedia and sponsorship rights) and Learfield (which also repped 100-ish schools for multimedia and sponsorship rights).
- Associated with this division are two small business groupings - one which does National Sales and a "Campus+" Division.
2400 Dallas Parkway
Suite 500
Plano, TX 75093
Ph: 469-241-9191

Learfield IMG College also provides a number of other services through various divisions that sometimes operate under different company names (ie no mention of Learfield). These other divisions include:

3. Concession Management
- Levy Restaurants, a joint venture called Learfield Levy
- Current Learfield Levy university partners include Colorado, Iowa State, Missouri, Oregon State, Purdue, Wisconsin and Texas A&M.
- I cannot guess how many people work for tis division, partly because there would be a lot of part time staff due to the nature of concessions and restaurants.
980 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611-4501
Ph: 312-664-8200
W: www.levyrestaurants.com
Note: Levy also has ties to pro sports licensing, so expect to see some Learfield action in this space in the next 5 years.
4. Ticket sales
- Learfield IMG College Ticket & Seat Solutions started in March 2019, formerly known as IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions and IMG College Seating.
- Ticket Solutions represents 45 partners nationally and has 170 on-site sales personnel dedicated to their respective relationships. In addition to representing collegiate institutions and conferences, this area also announced its first on-site sales team in professional sports through a multi-year comprehensive relationship with the Indy Eleven (US Soccer league team).
2400 Dallas Parkway
Suite 500
Plano, Texas 75093
Ph: 314-489-0993
E: jake.bye@imglearfield.com
W: www.imglearfieldticketsolutions.com

5. Digital and social platform expertise

A. Sidearm Sports
- Software interface allows schools to customize their content streams and digital presence. Sidearm's software and technology powers websites, mobile applications, live stats, social presence and video streaming for its school and conference partners.
- Other services include: Official Websites; Social Media Platforms; Content Creation; Data Aggregation; Engagement Campaigns
- I believe this division has 30-ish employees
109 S Warren St.
Suite 600
Syracuse, NY 13202
Ph: 315-545-5533
W: www.sidearmsports.com and www.learfield.com/business/sidearm-sports

B. Mogo Interactive
- Mogo provides online marketing skills to reach fans and ticket purchasers across devices and platforms.
- Mogo was acquired by Learfield IMG College in January 2017 to become another added value for collegiate and brand partners.
- My guess is that this division has 15 employees.
21 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Suite #207
Corte Madera, CA 94925
Ph: 844-214-6693
E: contact@mogointeractive.com
W: www.mogointeractive.com and www.learfield.com/business/mogo-interactive/

6. Branding
- This division is known as SME
- SME specializes in connecting with audiences through brand identity and advertising development. Founded in 1989, this NYC-based agency has a reputation of creative excellence, thought leadership and client service, and has relationships with sports brands including the Atlanta Braves, Kentucky Derby, Miami Marlins, and the Pac-12 Conference. 
- SME’s capabilities include: Brand Assessment; Marketing Research; Strategy; Positioning; Social Media, Web, and Messaging; Consulting.
- I think that if your team/school/project needs a brand refresh, SME can help.
- My guess is this division has 30-ish employees.
183 Madison Ave.
Suite 1701
New York, NY 10016
Ph: 212-924-5700
E: connect@smebranding.com
W: http://smebranding.com and www.learfield.com/business/sme

7. Signage
- This division is known as ANC.
- ANC, a Learfield company since March 2015, creates video experiences in stadiums, entertainment facilities, transportation hubs and retail venues through the design, integration, operation and content creation for dynamic video display systems.
- Think "video displays and video scoreboards", ie jumbotrons.
- ANC provides: Facilities Consultation; Custom Design; Project Management; Installation; Software and Graphics Creation.
2 Manhattanville Rd.
Suite 402
Purchase, New York 10577
Ph: 914-696-2100
W: www.anc.com and www.learfield.com/business/anc

8. Publishing
- This division is known as the Learfield IMG College Publishing Division.
- The Learfield IMG College Publishing Division is a leading publisher of college sports publications, and features a full-time, in-house editorial and graphic design team. It oversees a variety of projects ranging from game day programs and annual yearbooks to posters, schedule cards, magazines and other specialty publications for its university clients.
- More than 1,000 total products are created annually, including all NCAA championship programs, highlighted by the official NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Fours and the College World Series programs. The Learfield IMG College Publishing Division also produces basketball and football championship programs for many major conferences, including the Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West and SEC.
- Many of the publications are available for purchase online through the official company’s publications store.
- I do not know how many people work in this division but it must be 20-30 people.
Learfield IMG College Publishing Division
No address given but I suspect it is HQed in the Plano TX Learfield headquarters office
2400 Dallas Parkway
Suite 500
Plano, Texas 75093
E: imgproducts@LearfieldIMGCollege.com
W: www.imgproducts.net (Shopify store for consumers to purchase publications) and www.learfield.com/business/publishing

9. Misc other divisions and products
- Some of these smaller divisions actually represent the space where Learfield got its start 40-odd years ago - radio sales. Go to this url and look under "What we do" for info about each of these groups.


Okay, let's get back to what's important to people in the licensing business about the first two divisions listed above: CLC and Learfield IMG College Multimedia and Sponsorship Rights.

- CLC represents 700-ish schools.
- Learfield IMG College Multimedia and Sponsorship Rights represents 180-ish schools.
- For 160 of these schools (see list below - click to be able to see more clearly), Learfield controls both the Licensing and the Multimedia/Sponsorship Rights.

List of 160 colleges repped by Learfield IMG College and CLC - 1

List of 160 colleges repped by Learfield IMG College and CLC - 2

List of 160 colleges repped by Learfield IMG College and CLC - 3

Point #1: If you are a current licensee of one of these 160 schools, or if you would like to become a licensee of one of these 160 schools, you need to be aware that at some point you might get some economic pressure applied to you. What sort of pressure?

A. If you are a licensee, someone at some point might suggest to you that you should be spending money on multimedia advertising or sponsorship to support the school and your product that is licensed by the school. Maybe it's buying an ad in a program, maybe it's buying time on the video screen in the stadium. It might not be the best expenditure for you and your product, but it's hard to say no if you have a sense that it could affect your license.

B. If you are applying to become a licensee, someone at some point might suggest to you that if you commit to spending some advertising or sponsorship dollars, your path to licensing might become a bit smoother. Maybe it's making a commitment to buy an ad in a program, maybe it's committing to buy time on the video screen in the stadium. It might not be the best expenditure for you and your product, but it's hard to say no if you have a sense that it could affect whether or not you become a licensee.

I am not saying this is going on at present, nor am I saying that this is the way Learfield does business or would condone, but as a business person you should operate with your eyes wide open and be prepared to draw a line in the sand.

Point #2: If you are at one of the 20-ish schools (see list below) where Learfield controls the multimedia and sponsorship rights/sales, you have to expect that the Learfield team will try to leverage the good job they are doing on multimedia and sponsorship sales to them being given due consideration to taking over licensing at some future point in time. 

List of CLC's top prospects

A. If you are a licensing director at one of these schools, it's possible that a pitch could be made to someone higher up the decision making chain, perhaps without your knowledge or blessing. Forewarned is forearmed.

B. If you work for Fermata or Exemplar or Affinity Licensing and one of your schools is on this list, or if you are a licensing director for an independent school responsible for your own licensing and like it that way, you can bet that Learfield is going to be breathing down the school's neck to be given a shot at taking over the licensing when the current agreement expires. Forewarned is forearmed.

Point #3: This is a fairly simple point and not controversial. Let's assume you are seeking a college license(s). And let's say you know Learfield does the licensing for a school you are interested in, or at least you think they do. Just be sure that you are looking at the right list - you want to see the list of 700+ schools where CLC does the licensing. Do not go to the Learfield IMG College Multimedia and Sponsorship Rights school list and assume that CLC does the licensing as well - yes for 160 of the 180 schools they actually do the licensing, but for the 20 schools listed below, CLC does NOT do the licensing (or at least not as of March 2020 they don't).

List of CLC's top prospects

Point #4: It seems to me that whenever you concentrate a lot of licensing and multimedia and sponsorship, the opportunity for larger companies, such as Nike or adidas or Fanatics, to begin to exert their influence on the natural order of things. Let's use Nike just as an example. If Nike spends a lot of money on multimedia and sponsorship rights at a lot of Learfield IMG College's schools, you can imagine they will begin to wield a lot of influence. And if at some point Nike quietly says to Learfield, we'd really like to be the exclusive or near-exclusive provider of apparel to this school and that school, they are going to be given an audience. And when CLC makes recommendations to the licensing directors at this school and that school, the possibility exists that their thinking may be influenced by their colleagues and Nike's desires. You get my drift... In some cases, bigger is better, but in other cases, bigger means less competition and that is very seldom a good thing - competition keeps us honest.
Many thanks for learning about Learfield - they're a great company but they have become so big, if you are in the US college licensing field, you are well advised to keep abreast.

Many thanks -

PS I'm a sports licensing consultant and I'm here to help, so if you have any sports product licensing questions, please contact me. And please note that I am a consultant to existing licensees and entrepreneurs big and small wishing to become licensees. I am a good listener and I'd love to help if I can.

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Thank you for taking the time to add a comment - all input is welcome, especially the constructive kind! All the best - Scott