By ALAN SNEL
With UNLV’s football season only a month away, the university’s new sports-marketing company is in a two-minute drill to line up more sponsors and revenue streams for the 2017 season.
LVSportsBiz.com sat down Wednesday with Dan Dolby, who has spent only two weeks on the job as the UNLV Sports Properties pointman for Learfield. UNLV recently picked Plano, Texas-based Learfield as its new multi-media sports rights holder for the next 10 years.
Learfield replaces IMG College at UNLV. The new Learfield deal is a $57 million agreement, with $45 million guaranteed to the university during the next decade. It’s worth $25 million more than the IMG deal.
Faced with the job of re-signing business sponsors and finding new ones for the UNLV football season and trying to rejuvenate sponsorship energy into a lackluster 2016-17 basketball season is veteran Las Vegas sports man Dolby and his crew of four business managers.
“We’re trying to do five months of work in five weeks,” Dolby said at the Learfield office, which used to be the IMG business space in the southwest valley. “We’re a start-up business. In an ideal world, this would have been done six months ago.”
UNLV sports have 110 business partners, and Dolby said the goal is not necessarily to increase the raw number of sponsors but to increase the values of business sponsorship deals.
When Learfield took over the sports marketing reins from IMG last month, the company was literally starting from scratch with no signed sponsor contracts, Dolby said.
But he said Learfield has re-signed 50 percent of the 110 sports partners, including major football sponsors Findlay, Raising Cane’s, Valley Bank of Nevada, Born and Raised sports bar, NV Energy and Howard Hughes Corp., Dolby said.
With a new athletic director, Desiree Reed-Francois, named in April, and a new sports marketing company starting last month, UNLV sports have a blank canvas to re-brand itself and create a new identity.
Dolby is not concerned that a new NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights, and a new minor league soccer team in downtown Las Vegas are starting their inaugural seasons during the next six months. And the Oakland Raiders are coming to Las Vegas, too.
“Everybody will find their niche,” said Dolby, who left his executive director job at the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame to manage the Learfield operations in Las Vegas. Dolby came to Las Vegas in 1998 as director of sales for Pepsi-Cola, worked for the Las Vegas Gladiators as the Arena Football League team’s general manager from 2004-06 and coached football and wrestling at Bishop Gorman High School and Faith Lutheran Academy.
With new pro teams coming to Vegas, Dolby said UNLV sports will be marketed as “the hometown brand. We’re the anchor here.”
With UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez entering this third season, Dolby said he will be “selling hope and pride. We’re selling a commodity that is unknown at this point. But I feel bullish we’ll improve year after year. I’m going after people’s prides. We have a blank canvas right now.”
Dolby said he projects 12 new football sponsors for 2017, which, he said, would kick up sponsorship revenue by about 10-15 percent.
On the basketball side, the drop in attendance at UNLV games in 2016-17 are a concern and it will be a “challenge” to get locals to return to Thomas & Mack Center to watch the UNLV squad, Dolby said.
“It’s made the job a helluva lot more challenging,” Dolby said.
He said he’s hoping some new recruits under UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies will bring more fans to games.
In selling the UNLV brand, Dolby said the sports teams will be marketed to capture Las Vegas’ hype, glitz and excitement. He envisions different in-game entertainment to get more fans involved and using music and videos to excite football fans at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Learfield sent seven staffers to Las Vegas to help kick-start the new sports marketing operations at UNLV. Learfield knows all about college sports and the Mountain West.
Learfield has multimedia rights deals with 27 universities in the power five conferences and also does a lot of business in UNLV’s Mountain West.
The company has agreements with the conference itself, plus UNLV rivals Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, Reno, New Mexico, San José State, Utah State and Wyoming.
Dolby will rely on his own team of four new staffers to cultivate sponsorship deals. Joining Dolby are Manager-Business Development Jay Vickers; Manager-Business Development Beau Orth; Manager-Business Development Joey Swanner; and Manager-Marketing & Branding Savannah Stallworth.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com