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Wichita State hopes to score nationally with new multimedia partnership

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, August 24, 2013, at 7:34 p.m.

Most important, know that Mike Kennedy’s job as Voice of the Shockers won’t change.

“Mike Kennedy is not going anywhere,” Wichita State athletic director Eric Sexton said.

Almost everything else about WSU’s media future is changing, although much will take place behind the scenes.

The shifts in the business model are underway as the athletic department adds Shocker Sports Properties to oversee television, radio and other multimedia contracts and sales. The move, sealed with a 10-year contract with CBS Collegiate Sports Properties to create Shocker Sports Properties, follows the trend of colleges partnering with specialized companies to make more money.

A similar change is happening in the ticket office with the addition of Collegiate Consulting, an Atlanta firm that will help with group sales and ticket packages.

Sexton doesn’t expect fans to notice the upheaval. Cox Communications will continue to produce games on TV and that contract is likely to be extended soon. BGM Sports Marketing will handle the radio broadcasts for one more season before the rights go to Shocker Sports Properties. Fans can expect all the sports and coaches shows to continue as in the past.

“Most departments across the country have gone to a multi-media partner to help leverage their strengths,” Sexton said. “The thing we’ve charged with Shocker Sports Properties with is that we will not see a reduction in the coverage, the projection of Shocker athletics. They will grow that and build that and continue to extend that frequency and reach.”

The amount of money WSU earns through this partnership should be the big difference.

Money matters, even in the post-Final Four days at WSU. Sexton said the athletic department earned around $370,000, largely used for travel expenses, from the NCAA for its performance in the NCAA Tournament for 2012-13. In future years, that share of the Missouri Valley Conference’s earnings from the 2013 tournament will be $80-85,000. So while WSU profited in many ways from the Final Four, the business of raising money continues.

“It’s a great deal,” Sexton said. “It’s not a life-changing number. It isn’t the fatted calf that gets portrayed.”

Sexton said multimedia rights (TV, radio, signs, scoreboard ads, etc.) netted the athletic department $1.1 million in 2012-13. CBS Collegiate Sports Properties projects its goal at $2.5 million and is more than 70 percent to the goal. Over 10 years, it projects a net increase of $8-$15 million for the department.

With three employees, led by general manager Scott Stevens, Shocker Sports Properties will put more manpower on sales and marketing. CBS Collegiate Sports Properties pays their salaries, although all three will work closely with the athletic department.

They work in the Eck Stadium ticket office, which will be renovated and remain in use for tickets during baseball season.

“We've essentially shifted operating expenses over into CBS Collegiate Sports Properties,” associate athletic director John Brewer said.

WSU started looking at its marketing and advertising operations two years ago. With one full-time employee dedicated to selling, a consultant told Sexton and Brewer they faced falling behind.

“That rubber band was getting stretched pretty thin,” Sexton said.

CBS Collegiate Sports Properties sold WSU on its wider reach and connections to regional and national companies. Sexton liked the fact WSU will be one of a group of 10-12 schools (such as LSU, Maryland, Utah, Virginia and Old Dominion) under contract and not geographically challenged by other CBS Collegiate Sports Properties schools.

WSU didn’t sign over all control. If, for example, CBS wanted to put a business logo on the Koch Arena court, WSU can decline. WSU can continue to use trade outs for advertising (swapping items such as an ad spot for meals or courtesy cars), an arrangement that doesn’t necessarily benefit Shocker Sports Properties, but does help the athletic department.

Koch Arena’s new scoreboard and message boards give Shocker Sports Properties more opportunities to sell ads. Stevens is working on the Shocker Ambassadors program, targeted at corporate sponsors. WSU is hopeful that its relationship with CBS will help with basketball scheduling against other CBS schools, TV appearances and additional radio stations. Stevens is planning a billboard campaign around the state with CBS Outdoor.

“They understood us, but they also have large BCS properties," Sexton said. "They think like Shocker athletics."

CBS Collegiate Sports Properties’ biggest edge is its network of potential sponsors. Brewer said they are working on a deal with AT&T, the kind of company previously out of his reach. The consultant told Sexton he could hire new people in hopes of developing relationships with national companies, or he could outsource the work to an outfit that came equipped with those contacts.

“We’re trying to grow the Shocker brand, not only locally and regionally, but nationally,” Stevens said.

Bill Maness, president of BGM Sports Marketing, took over Shocker radio rights in 2003, when he said nobody else wanted them. BGM Sports Marketing has one purpose — broadcasting WSU athletics — and will cease to exist when its contract expires. Maness says he is fine with all that. Friends tell him losing WSU will allow him to spend more time on the six other businesses he owns.

Maness understands the outsourcing trend. Kansas State works with Learfield Sports to form K-State Sports Properties for its multimedia rights. Kansas and IMG partner for Jayhawk IMG Sports Marketing. Learfield also works with MVC schools Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois.

“The things they’re looking for, I can’t provide,” Magness said. “For 10 years, my focus has been to take care of the university and the fans. It's really been a labor of love for me.”

Preferred Health Systems used to be one of Maness’ biggest sponsors on WSU broadcasts. When an out-of-state company purchased Preferred Health Systems in 2009, it cut back.

“The decision-makers changed,” Maness said. “The decisions went out of market.”

For a large company such as CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, the people who make decisions on buying ads are always in market.

“The dynamic has changed,” Maness said. “They are moving on to a different way of doing business. These outsourcing opportunities really are the best of both worlds.”

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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