First and foremost, sports is a business. The focus of college athletics will always be on the athletes and the playbook, but make no mistake, athletic departments need revenue to keep the program running.
Advertisement sales are one of the primary ways the Boise State Athletic Department brings in revenue. In order to make sure the athletic department sells enough advertisements to keep the program running, the Broncos are aided by Bronco Sports Properties, LLC, a subsidiary of Learfield Sports.
What is Learfield Sports?
For years, the Broncos sold all of their advertisements in house. As the university and athletic department grew, Boise State needed to find an organization with the infrastructure to keep up with the growing demand for advertising sales.
In 2010, a seven year contract between Learfield Sports and Boise State was, with three one-year options that could extend the deal to 2020. In August of this year, Boise State and Learfield Sports reconstructed their contract to extend to 2025.
“We don’t have that infrastructure of hiring people and having a sales staff,” said Max Corbet, associate athletic director of communications “They(Learfield Sports) already have that built in.”
Essentially, Learfield Sports acts as a middle man between athletic departments and companies that may wish to advertise.Learfield Sports and all of their subsidiaries gain the exclusive media rights to the athletic department they work with in return for their advertisement expertise.
Bronco Sports Properties LLC operates with a staff of four under the direction of general manager Dan Hawley. They have their own office space in the Stueckle Sky Center and receive a commission for their advertisement sales.
Since Learfield Sports owns the media rights for the Broncos. Radio announcer Bob Behler is an official employee of Learfield Sports.
Learfield Sports has partnerships with nearly 100 universities across the nation. According to Corbet, a larger school such as Louisiana State could employ a staff upwards of 10 due to the demand.
Learfield Sports originally was commissioned to solicit the naming rights for then Bronco Stadium. As it happened, Boise State played a much larger role in the deal with Albertsons due to the university’s past history with the company.
The $12.5 million deal to rename the football stadium to Albertsons Stadium generated $3,418,750 for Learfield Sports. The other $9,081,250 went to Boise State.
The New Contract
Boise State’s original contract with Learfield Sports was set to run from 2010-2017 for $10.408 million, with three one-year extensions that would bring the deal up to $19.263 million.
After four years, however, Boise State has become a much more profitable athletic department. The new restructured deal between Learfield Sports and Boise State now totals $44.058 million from 2013-2025.
Corbet feels the Broncos’ history with Learfield Sports has been beneficial for both parties.
“We have guaranteed money with this deal,” Corbet said. “Whether they sell those ads or not, we get that revenue no matter what. It all goes back into the pot and then pay us back. They set up all the partnerships. From a budgetary standpoint, it’s a lot easier to budget.”
According to the revenue share hurdle clause in the contract between the two parties, Boise State gains any surplus revenue from advertisement sales.
Compensation for Learfield Sports
Boise State is not the only benefactor in this deal. Members of the Bronco Sports Properties, LLC team all receive commissions from their advertisement sales.
In return for their services, Learfield Sports also gains access to several club-level seating and luxury boxes.
According to Corbet, Learfield Sports uses these to solidify partnerships with current clients and as well as to entice new clients.
“They have x number of tickets,” Corbet said. “For the most part, they are definitely for taking care of clients. They are always looking at ways to increase their revenue. It’s advantageous for both. We want to help them so they can help us gain new partnerships.”
In the contract between the two parties, Boise State also receives $100,000 from Learfield Sports each year as a capital stipend. This stipend must be used by the Broncos to improve their marketability and advertisement carrying possibilities.
According to the contract, Boise State can use that stipend for “such items as the purchase and installation of a center-hung video board for Taco Bell Arena, or other mutually agreeable venue enhancements.”
Both parties must agree on what the capital stipend is spent on.