Photo By Hillary Ehlen
One constant seems to ring true throughout North Dakota State’s illustrious athletic history: the Bison are always growing. Whether it is through fans and the growth of Bison Nation or financial support from sponsors, the Bison herd is constantly evolving and getting bigger by the day.
As NDSU’s reach has grown throughout the country, the athletic department has taken steps to continue to build the Bison brand. The most recent example of this is the partnering of NDSU athletics and Learfield/IMG College. Together, the two parties created Bison Sports Properties. An extension of the athletic department, BSP aims to grow the herd. Whether that is through multimedia rights or corporate sponsorships, Bison Sports Properties aims to grow the loyal and dedicated fanbase for NDSU.
Learn more about Bison Sports Properties and Learfield from BSP general manager Josh Hartman.
NDSU Athletics just recently partnered with Learfield to create Bison Sports Properties. What specific reasons brought both sides to team up and help bolster the athletic department’s visibility throughout the Midwest?
Like you said at the beginning of the article NDSU Athletics is always growing. By partnering with Learfield/IMG College, NDSU will be able to leverage relationships and resources to bring in large national partners, as well as connect Bison fans with local businesses. Take advantage of business arms that Learfield/IMG offers including Paciolan, CLC and Sidearm, along with the Multimedia Rights. The success they have had on the field over the past decade speaks for itself, but now having a sports marketing company utilize their resources will help take Bison athletics to the next level.
Briefly, what was the timeline/history behind Bison Sports Properties?
This has been a property Learfield/IMG has coveted for years, not just because of the winning culture and tradition, but because of the opportunity in the market and region. The property started in January of this year and we had our full staff in Fargo in March.
You have a team of three at Bison Sports Properties. How important was it to create a strong team for something such as this? And what do you think the BSP excels in the most?
We are an extension of the athletic department, so our team is truly much larger than the three of us. We work hand in hand with the marketing department and senior staff on a day to day basis. The hiring process was key, having someone join the team from within Learfield/IMG College was important as well as hiring someone with local connections and relationships. Being able to come up with concepts that help serve our partners objectives in a creative way.
I think some people see Learfield as a completely separate entity, but in fact, they work so closely with athletic departments. How vital is it to have that constant collaboration with the athletic department?
It’s the key to all our partnerships, if we don’t have strong relationships within the department, we can’t effectively serve our partners. Being in the GM role the past four years, this is one of the more underrated aspects of my job. Creating trust is key with everyone in athletics.
What are some specific examples of how Bison Sports Properties has bolstered NDSU’s reach throughout our community and beyond since its inception?
We have been able to introduce unique best practices and create new inventory and marketing strategies for our partners. We have a strong digital team and they are great at creating new concepts and ideas for us to further generate revenue. We have strengthened national and local relationships and brought new partners on board.
With the help of Learfield and Bison Sports Properties, NDSU Athletics now has the opportunity to align with more businesses and corporate sponsors in the future. How vital is business and corporate sponsor support for an athletic department?
This is fundamental to the success of our athletic programs and you see it with the success of our Team Makers program. Corporate and community support allows for a great student-athlete experience and for our student athletes to continue to compete at a high level on the field of play and in the classroom.
Bison Sports Properties also handles multimedia rights for NDSU Athletics which includes radio and television rights. How does Bison Sports Properties go about handling all of NDSU’s multimedia rights (considering there are so many facets to that side of the job)?
We work closely with the athletics staff and our Radio and TV team’s in Plano, TX and Jefferson City, MO. Athletics has had these relationships and negotiated these deals locally for many years. Our team is able to look at other similar properties that Learfield/IMG College works with and get comparable market size demos and see how the rights agreements should align. Having a state-wide radio and tv network at any level of Division 1 Athletics is special.
What are some things that fans/our readers may not be aware of about Bison Sports Properties/Learfield?
The size and reach of Learfield/IMG College. With over 180 schools/properties and all the other ancillary businesses (ANC, CLC, SME, Levy Restaurant Concessions, Sidearm, Paciolan, etc.) we are truly a full suite of services for athletic departments.
What have been some of the biggest successes of Bison Sports Properties since its inception?
It has been great to see the support corporate partners have for the Bison. We knew that coming in, but to be able to get out in the community and have great conversations about how NDSU athletics can help with local and national businesses has been a one of a kind experience.
What have been the biggest challenges in taking over a duty that was once handled by the athletic department? Also, what are some of the general day to day challenges Bison Sports Properties faces?
Building relationships and trust with our corporate partners. Athletics has handled their marketing/sales internally for years and it is always a transition when there is change.
In your opinion, what is the most satisfying part about working for Bison Sports Properties and with NDSU Athletics?
Seeing the passion our fans and community have for our athletic programs. Working with the athletics department staff and building relationships with them and our corporate partners. NDSU and Fargo have a unique culture that can’t be touched by many places in the country and we are looking forward to helping grow the NDSU brand and Bison Sports Properties.