By Barry Janoff
September 8, 2015: AT&T is returning full-force to the 2015 college football season with a continuation of its "Legends" campaign, this time starring a group of football icons who will compete in a series of physical and mental challenges to determine which one is strong enough to watch the College Football Playoff with Bo Jackson at his house.
This incarnation of "Legends" — versions of which ran last season during college football and basketball time periods — includes Ron Dayne, Doug Flutie, Desmond Howard, Rocket Ismail, Danny Kannell, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach, Herschel Walker and Steve Young.
AT&T is an official "corporate champion" partner with the NCAA.
As part of its alliance, AT&T is returning as a sponsor for the 2016 College Football National Championship Game, and this season will have "exclusive activities at and around stadiums " in select markets nationwide.
The firm also has naming rights to AT&T Stadium, home for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, home to numerous college football games.
For the 2015 college football season, AT&T said it would highlight its "network with the nation’s strongest 4G LTE signal."
AT&T spends the second-most on sponsorships in college sports behind Nike, according to a new report from marketing and research from IEG, Chicago.
Although specific financial details per company were not released, the IEG Sponsorship Report on college sports relates that sponsorship spending on college athletics totaled $1.1 billion during the 2014-15 season, a 5.9% increase over the previous year.
AT&T's overall measured-media marketing budget tops $3 billion, according to Kantar Media, NY, and other marketing and research firms.
The increase significantly exceeds the projected 4.4% increase in 2015 sponsorship spending in the overall sports category, a "factor largely driven by opportunities with the College Football Playoff," per IEG.
“Marketers want platforms that provide broad reach, local touch-points and affluent audiences — and college athletics have all three in spades,” William Chipps, senior editor for the IEG Sponsorship Report, said in a statement.
The top brands by spend are Nike, AT&T, adidas, Coca-Cola, Allstate, Capital One, Northwestern Mutual, Under Armour, UPS and Dr Pepper.
Capital one and Coke also are NCAA top-tier corporate champions.
Sports apparel and equipment is the most active category in college athletics. Led by Nike, adidas and Under Armour, the category has more than 80 deals across Power Five conferences and schools, the NCAA, College Football Playoff and Bowl Games, according to the IEG Sponsorship Report. The sports apparel and equipment category spends 14.6 times more than the average category in college athletics.
The top Five categories also include insurance (8.4), telecom (7.1), soft drinks (6.0), banks (5.9), QSR/restaurants (4.4) and automotive (4.0). Nike spent 43.2 times more than the average college sports brand in the 2014/2015 season.
According to IMG College, college sports have a combined 190 million fans — 89 million of whom are women — with 31 million earning $100,000+ and 27 million in the desired 18-24 year old demographic.
Merchandise sales on college-related items tops $4.6 billion, per IMG College.
According to The Harris Poll from Harris Interactive, college football is the third most popular sport in the U.S., behind the NFL and MLB.
Humorous AT&T spots will roll-out during the season, beginning with an intro spot that lays the groundwork for the football stars as well as for viewers; and "Armchair," in which Staubach shows that even falling asleep while watch a game on TV can earn participants points in the Strongest of the Strong competition.
ESPN’s College Game Day hosts Rece Davis, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit also appear in three ads that will air during Game Day and elsewhere on ESPN.
The telcomm firm just completed a $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV. enabling it to reach an estimated 26 million households in the U.S. Comcast is No. 2 with 22 million households, according to industry analysts.
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