breaking away from the pack

Innovations in Higher Education Corporate Sponsorship Programs, Part 1

By on January 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

In last month’s 36th Annual Symposium on Racing & Gaming, presented by the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program in Tucson, Arizona, Thought Leader and author Dale Dauten, facilitated the session “The Gifted Boss: To Think Like a Hero and Work Like an Artist”. I had the pleasure of meeting Dale after the presentation and speak with him about the work he and his team is doing at The Innovators Lab.

In his recent syndicated column titled, “Innovations in Service May Require Disruption”, Dale talks about the need to build “a culture of innovation” or “a culture of disruption”. He cites the example of Kim Gravell, vice president of innovation for Cardinal Health who calls it, “breaking the china”. Dale stresses that while ideas are essential to innovation, they must also be “pounded, dragged, charmed or sneaked into existence” and recounts how Gravell built a team of people who could talk numbers and processes to get buy-in within her organization.
Corporate sponsorships of programs and events and corporate partners programs in higher education institutions and in municipal governments are slowly getting acceptance.

There are some examples of successful programs, but there is within any organization a hesitance to “break the china” and a tendency to hold on to the status quo. How to implement an innovative idea like corporate sponsorship of non-athletics programs and events across a higher education institution?

I spoke with Eron Jacobson, Director of Corporate Partnerships at the University of California, Los Angeles. I wrote about the work Eron and his team is doing in my article “Corporate Sponsorships in Higher Education Institutions”

He said that UCLA adopted a new tone in regards to corporate relations. “Our vice chancellor told us that we have to be thinking creatively and differently. What has worked the past 100 years does not necessarily work now. What’s worked in the past may not be what is needed now.”

The UCLA administration realized that the Athletics model of a corporate sponsors program could be adapted and applied across much of the institution. UCLA Athletics had enjoyed success in this area for decades and the administration acknowledged that the wealth of this vehicle had not been used for non-athletics campus programs and events. At the time, developing support from corporations outside of Athletics was only being done from a philanthropic perspective and not a marketing perspective.

The administration understood they needed to leverage those marketable assets in different ways: online, putting sponsors’ products and services into the hands of consumers, and delivering to the UCLA community the brand experience of UCLA’s corporate partners. “Corporate America wants to put their stamp on it (the University community) and they are willing to invest in it,” he said.

How did the institution respond to this new initiative? Jacobson said that he has encountered some uncertainty from UCLA units to this program and faced the challenge of getting them to understand the benefits of incorporating a corporate message or brand directly into an academic or administrative program or event.

He cited his greatest success so far as the development of a group of important allies on the UCLA campus who understand the value of making UCLA’s sponsorable assets more marketable and available to corporate sponsors. With this group of allies, Jacobson has been able to do something along the lines of what Dale Dauten talks about in his column and what Kim Gravell of Cardinal Health is accomplishing across her large and diverse organization. With his group of allies, Jacobson is getting this new corporate partners program positioned with UCLA units as something that will bring value to them.

One benefit of this approach is the packaging of larger sponsorable properties that combine assets across multiple units on campus. “We find things with a common thread across units,” he said. “All Things Green—sustainability, is one theme. We can then embed a corporate partner for that”. Jacobson said that by identifying the market value for each unit’s assets that are contributed to the package and gauging the overall value of the sum of its parts, he is able to equitably divide up the sponsor’s cash and in-kind investment among the contributing units.

The UCLA Office of Corporate, Foundation and Research Relations takes only the standard 6% administrative fee that the office charges to process the revenues through their system. All revenues are funneled through the Foundation and the packages are tailored so that all fall under the IRS guidelines for qualified sponsorships and avoid Unrelated Business Income Tax.

In part 2 of this article, I’ll report more on how Eron Jacobson and UCLA are innovatively drawing upon the assets of multiple units to create value in higher education corporate sponsorship packages.

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