Georgia Tech athletics department signed an 11-year multimedia rights deal with sports hospitality management company Legends. The new agreement is set to begin in July, with Legends becoming Tech’s exclusive corporate partnership and multimedia rights partner.
Tech agreed to a multi-faceted partnership with Legends, where the company will be involved across a variety of business areas from ticketing (premium seating) and e-commerce, to assisting the association with fundraising efforts — which has become vital amid the ongoing pandemic.
Legends plans to integrate new technology and data analytics systems to bolster current revenue streams while finding other money-making opportunities. Georgia Tech Athletic Director Todd Stansbury and Legends anticipate the deal will generate over $400 million over its lifespan.
“Having someone with that experience and a track record of success in not only other markets but in revenue areas is really what gives me the confidence that this is going to be a great partnership and provide us with opportunities that we may not have had in the past,” Stansbury said.
This new agreement marks the end of Tech’s longtime partnership with Learfield IMG College, which has reportedly sought to restructure deals during the pandemic. Tech’s current media rights deal with IMG expires at the end of next June. Several full-service firms sought Tech’s multimedia rights despite budget shortfall across the industry, according to a source familiar with the situation. The association will lean on Legends to navigate the bevy of unknowns surrounding the college athletics landscape that ranges from the future of ticketing to student-athlete compensation.
Breaking the mold
Legends was co-founded in 2008 in joint venture between Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and owners of the New York Yankees. The New York-based company in the last decade has transformed itself from stadium concessionaire to a billion-dollar sports marketing business.
Legends has become more aggressive in college athletics — working in different capacities with high-profile programs including the University of Notre Dame and University of Oklahoma. Tech’s deal is unique, though, with Legends overseeing virtually all aspects of business, allowing the program to sync its revenue streams under one umbrella.
This synergy is commonly found with professional sports teams, but intercollegiate athletic departments traditionally have these areas segmented between third-party companies.
“I think it just makes it so much easier,” Stansbury said. “So, when [Legends reps] are out there on the street, they have more assets in their back pocket and can coordinate those assets with potential corporate partners to fit what they’re looking for.”
Atlanta-based marketing firm Aspire Group is among the third-party companies impacted by this agreement with Legends. Tech said it remains in communication with all of its third-party contractors affected by the partnership about the transition.
The deal also coincides with the association’s push to upgrade athletic facilities across campus, including the Edge-Rice Center and Russ Chandler Baseball Stadium. Legends will be tasked with not only improving the fan experience at Bobby Dodd Stadium and McCamish Pavilion but also identifying corporate sponsors who want to be involved in major capital facility projects as well.
Legends, which recently added a safety consultant aspect to its business, bought facility marketer CSL International in 2011. CSL will reexamine the overall fan experience at Tech sporting venues using technology-based market studies.
“In order for Georgia Tech to continue to move forward and be a top-echelon program in the Power Five, it’s important to drive all revenue streams and add innovation to each of those,” said Mike Behan, Legends vice president of collegiate partnerships. “That made us a unique partner for them because of our acumen in those areas.”
‘It’s a prime location’
Legends has experience in the Atlanta market after previously working with Mercedes-Benz Stadium to oversee sales for tickets, suites and personal seat licenses. Tech looks to leverage Legends’ wealth of resources and knowledge in running franchises. Legends now returns to Atlanta where it sees untapped potential at Tech, especially with the campus located in the heart of one of the largest media markets in the country. The global company works with collegiate programs that have close proximity to large cities, but Tech is alone in that it’s located directly in a major city. This opens up a realm of possibilities, nearby top companies like Home Depot and The Coca-Cola Co.
“It’s such a prime location compared to other colleges out there,” Behan added. “Georgia Tech is situated in one of the biggest corporate cities in the country. I think there’s a lot of commercial and branding opportunities. We’re excited to get deeper in that market.”
Tech aims to revolutionize how college sports venues are used post COVID-19 by hosting an array of events outside of athletics and student programming. This means exploring new opportunities at these facilities like potentially turning Bobby Dodd Stadium into a year-round venue that hosts concerts, company outings and corporate events. Legends managed a similar business model for Mercedes-Benz Stadium and now looks to do the same for Tech.
Tech was originally scheduled to play Notre Dame at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to kick off its ‘Mayhem at MBS’ series this season, but those plans were put on hold due to the pandemic. Tech instead will begin the series in 2021 with an annual game at the stadium for the next six years.
With a new team soon to be on board, Tech can reposition what it wants that series to look like for its fans and donors. There’s likely to be more synergy in the rollout for that event with Tech bringing its new multimedia partner into the home of one of Legends’ former clients.
“That puts us on the fast track to really identifying how we make the most of that series,” Stansbury said.