Industry News

Learfield and IMG College confirm merger

Leading college sports marketer Learfield has expanded its offering to major schools in North America through a merger with the IMG College division of the WME|IMG agency.

The two agencies have already operated a joint venture in the ticketing sector – IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions, which launched in 2012.

Learfield said the merger will lead to the formation of a “more dynamic service provider” in the sports and entertainment market.

IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions provides ticketing and data solutions for US colleges and universities in an effort to increase fundraising revenue, sales and optics.

The IMG College division runs almost 90 universities and conferences, while Learfield, which last month struck a multimedia rights partnership with the Atlantic 10 Conference, has more than 130 college partners. Together, the two agencies manage rights for close to 90 per cent of the North American universities competing in the ‘Power Five’ conferences.

The merger will expand the range and depth of data services available to collegiate partners, according to the statement from Learfield.

In addition, the joint venture will offer services such as representation and management of collegiate multimedia rights and licensing, while also protecting existing jobs and creating new opportunities for current and future employees.

Greg Brown, president and chief executive of Learfield, said: “We are excited about partnering with IMG College, and believe that this combination will enable a better, more innovative future for collegiate athletic programmes and their fans.

“By combining, we will be better positioned to champion the success of collegiate athletics in the years ahead through the development of new services and offerings that will provide greater benefits to our clients and brand partners than either company could do alone.

“Together, we will more efficiently assist schools in identifying and implementing methods to derive maximum value for their rights and sponsorship deals in light of greater competition with professional sports leagues and other entertainment options.”

Patrick Whitesell, co-chief executive of WME|IMG, added: “This merger will bolster the opportunities available for brands across the sports landscape and deliver greater value for our partner schools through enhanced services in areas including data, ticketing, and retail insight.

“We are confident that together we will better enable our partner institutions to generate much-needed revenue and look forward to furthering our investment in this space and generating enhanced value for collegiate sports.”

Earlier this year, Learfield acquired Paciolan, Spectra’s ticketing and marketing division, as it sought to broaden its offering to major schools in North America. Learfield also announced that its acquisition, a leader in providing ticketing, fundraising, marketing and analytics solutions to athletic and entertainment events, will be rebranded from Spectra’s Ticketing & Fan Engagement back to the name it was given when founded in 1980, Paciolan.

In addition, IMG acquired Collegiate Licensing Company and Host Communications for $300m in 2007 before adding ISP Sports to its portfolio in 2010.

Learfield acquired by private equity firm Atairos Group through Providence Equity Partners for a reported $1.3bn (€1.08bn/£963m) close to a year ago.

Image: D. Myles Cullen