SIAC, with OVG, looks to sell deal across venues at conference schools.

Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is the 11,000-seat home to football at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. (Courtesy SIAC)

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has signed a deal with Oak View Group to sell naming rights for sports facilities across the league’s 14 schools, which will include Savannah State after it joins the conference in 2019.

The strategy is to combine all assets among the members’ football, basketball and other sports venues into one comprehensive naming-rights package to bring greater value to the Division II league, said Dan Shell, head of OVG Collegiate, the division of the company working with the conference. (OVG also owns VenuesNow).

The SIAC, a 105-year-old organization whose headquarters are in Atlanta, represents the largest group of historically black colleges and universities in the country. The 14 schools cover major markets such as Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville, among other Southeast cities.

In addition to Savannah State, conference schools are Albany State, Benedict College, Central State University, Clark Atlanta University, Fort Valley State, Kentucky State, Lane College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Miles College, Morehouse College, Paine College, Spring Hill College and Tuskegee University. Clark Atlanta and Morehouse are both Atlanta-based institutions.

The deal falls in line with other leaguewide sponsorships that the conference has signed over the past 10 years to generate incremental revenue and boost its exposure, Commissioner Greg Moore said.

In 2010, the SIAC signed a deal with Sidearm Sports to develop a leaguewide web platform for athletics. In December, the conference signed Nike to a six-year “head to toe” agreement outfitting all schools with Nike-branded uniforms. Coca-Cola and Toyota also have leaguewide deals with the conference.

Those sponsorships resulted in the SIAC generating $1.3 million in revenue for the 2017-18 school year, the conference’s best year ever, and a big jump over the $500,000 in leaguewide income in 2009, the year Moore took over as commissioner.

“At that time, we had $500,000 in debt and no money in the bank,” Moore said. “Out of 22 Division II conferences, we were last in cash flow and revenue, but we were first in attendance for 10 to 15 years in a row. The key was that we were not really engaging our fans in a way that creates a value proposition. The OVG deal is a brick-and-mortar manifestation of the digital idea [with Sidearm Sports] that we had about nine years ago. We’re applying the same strategy for our stadiums and arenas.”

The league’s Council of Presidents approves all marketing opportunities, and ultimately, the decision to sell naming rights is up to the individual schools, Moore said.

“It’s not just rolling up our assets,” he said. “If you look at where our schools are situated in the Southeast, that’s where the largest number of African-Americans live. Of those 30 most densely populated cities, most are in our footprint. It creates a unique target market.”

Shell, who previously worked for IMG College and Fox Sports in Los Angeles, believes a collective naming-rights deal could generate revenue in the low to mid- seven figures annually over a minimum of six years. He hopes to have a deal in place by the 2019 football season.

By comparison, North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, a HBCU institution, announced in June that BB&T, a bank based in nearby Winston-Salem, had bought naming rights for 28,000-seat Aggie Stadium. The 15-year deal is reportedly valued at a total $1.5 million for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school.

None of the SIAC’s stadiums has a corporate naming-rights deal. The football stadiums are split roughly in half between buildings named for donors and others with no ties to philanthropic gifts, Shell said. For those named for individuals, there’s flexibility for a corporate name in the title of the facility, he said.

“We’re not expecting it to be an obstacle,” Shell said. “It’s an intriguing proposal for a brand that stands out from other naming-rights deals. It’s a different sell.”