Learfield IMG College, one of college sports’ biggest multimedia rights holders, has partnered with ScreenVision Sports, a division of cinema advertising company ScreenVision Media. The multi-year deal, which runs through the 2023-24 academic year, will use in-venue content to bring new advertising opportunities to more than 100 of Learfield’s schools. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Starting this fall, ScreenVision Sports will produce a three-minute video segment that will run on video boards at 84 college football stadiums and 109 basketball arenas nationwide. Running either pregame or at halftime, 90 seconds of the spot will feature fan entertainment-focused content (such as football trivia) produced by ScreenVision, while the other 90 seconds will contain advertisements.
ScreenVision will sell the available ad slots, and Learfield will secure a presenting sponsorship for the segment, creating new revenue for both parties and the participating schools.
The model mirrors ScreenVision’s typical approach to cinema advertising: on-screen ad spots that run during previews and in-lobby promotions for national and regional partners. ScreenVision’s pre-movie inventory includes a 20-minute show featuring trivia and sponsored content, similar to what the company will create in the new Learfield deal, and six minutes of traditional advertisements.
Nearly 30 Power 5 and almost 50 of Learfield’s Group of 5 partner schools are involved in the deal. At pre-COVID attendance levels, the 100-plus school network would reach more than 20 million fans, an audience alluring to advertisers.
“These are the most avid fans if they’re making the effort to go to the venue,” said Eric Krasnoo, SVP of business development at ScreenVision Sports. “Some of the people we’ve talked to already have said, ‘Hey, I buy time on college sports broadcasts, but this affords me the opportunity to also reach the most avid, passionate fans.’”
In turn, the participating universities will have access to Screenvision’s cinema advertising network, which includes 14,000 screens in more than 2,300 locations across all 50 states. Each school gets to run a 30-second spot on 15 screens over a four-week period as part of the deal, with the option to choose both timing and location. Additional cinema ad time is also available for purchase by schools.
Learfield IMG College’s EVP and managing director of media and partnerships Rick Barakat said the idea is to create new inventory to attract new advertising dollars.
“This new inventory, in particular, will hopefully get to more traditional, transactional media dollars from advertisers than sponsorship dollars,” Barakat said in a phone interview. Media dollars tend to be tied to metrics like impressions or audience, with advertisers paying based on the number of viewers.
The expectation is that most schools will market within their local communities, but there is an opportunity to shift the focus to screens elsewhere. Schools can use the ScreenVision airtime to promote their university athletic departments, promote ticket sales to upcoming games or spotlight a specific sport, all of which can be targeted to a specific demographic or audience depending on the particular title playing.
ScreenVision plans to tap into the existing relationships within its portfolio—more than 250 advertisers on a national scale and “hundreds more on a regional basis,” Krasnoo said—and also look at more traditional college sports sponsors and marketers.
The agreement will kick off during the 2021 fall football season, when both parties expect fan attendance to return to more normal levels. The same can be said of their expectations for movie theater attendance. ScreenVision cited Godzilla vs. Kong’s impressive box office performance as a hopeful indicator of what’s to come as capacity restrictions due to COVID-19 continue to lift throughout the country.
The deal marks a re-entry into sports for ScreenVision, and its first foray into college athletics. After launching in late 2019, ScreenVision sports struck relationships that span from NASCAR to Minor League Baseball, the NBA’s G League and the American Hockey League (the NHL’s development league) to teams including the New York Mets and Utah Jazz, but the pandemic paused the division’s growth.
While the core of ScreenVision’s business will continue to be in-cinema advertising, the company sees this entry into college athletics as an opportunity to create additional scale as fans return to stands and theaters.