On Tuesday afternoon, Penn’s Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, director of athletics and recreation, held a press conference to announce that Penn Athletics secured a sponsorship with Macquarie Investment Management. The multi-faceted agreement is highlighted by the group’s presenting sponsorship of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as naming rights to the Palestra’s famed court.
Calhoun refused to disclose the length and value of the deal but noted the partnership is for several years and is the largest such agreement in the history of Penn Athletics.
Typically, a presenting sponsor attaches its name to a product. With respect to the “Cathedral of Basketball”, the hardwood will now permanently be known as “Macquarie Court at the Palestra.” Calhoun noted, iin response to questions from Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com and reporters form the Daily Pennsylvanian, that having a corporate name linked directly with the fabled arena was not an option. However, she did admit that the school’s famed football stadium, Franklin Field, and the Penn Relays could be considered for a deal in the future.
Nino Vanin, Penn Sports Properties’ Vice President for Sponsorship Sales, told IHO that “Fans will see the Macquarie brand associated with the marketing and promotion of the Men’s & Women’s Basketball team throughout the year.” He noted that attendees at Penn events will see the company’s name and logo on the basket stanchions, courtside LED signage, and concourse. Vanin also confirmed to IHO that there is no part of the agreement that would allow Macquarie to place its logo on the Penn uniforms, if the NCAA ever permitted this action. According to the Penn Athletics press release, the monies from Macquarie will be split between the two basketball teams and three school-supported community initiatives, the Young Quakers Community Athletics (YQCA) program, Penn’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and a new student-athlete Community Champion program.
Macquarie Investment Management is a global investment firm headquartered in Philadelphia. It originally started as Delaware Investments when founded in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression. Australia’s Macquarie Group Limited purchased the firm in 2010. In April 2017, Delaware Investments was rebranded as Macquarie Investment Management to reflect the firm’s integrated global capabilities.
According to Tuesday’s press release, the agreement was secured through JMI Sports, the exclusive multimedia rights partner of Penn Athletics and the Penn Relays. In May of 2016, following the end of its media relationship with Learfield Sports, Penn struck a 10-year deal with JMI Sports. The partnership, as noted in the May 2016 JMI press release, sought to “to maximize the value of Penn’s marketing assets, while developing valuable relationships with sponsors, fans, alumni and students through the delivery of: corporate sponsorships and advertising, radio and television broadcasts, coaches’ shows and endorsements, website and social media, game programs and publications, in-game production and hospitality, venue signage and naming rights, special events, and innovative activations.” The JMI Sports team that works as an extension of Penn for these deals operates as Penn Sports Properties.
JMI Sports works with several other collegiate entities, such as the Ivy League, Columbia University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Kentucky, the University of Georgia and Clemson University. Prior to the deal with Macquarie came last February’s announcement that JMI Sports was able to reach an agreement for Porsche to become an Official Sponsor of Penn Athletics as part of a larger deal to become an Official Partner of the Ivy League.
Tuesday’s deal was met with negative reactions from the Daily Pennsylvanian, as well as a former Penn basketball All-Ivy star. The Quakers will now have a court branded by a faceless corporation with no previous connection to the basketball program, not a former Hall of Fame former coach (Princeton’s Pete Carril Court) or major team benefactor (Harvard’s Thomas G. Stemberg ’71 Court). This deal and Dr. Calhoun’s comment that “we went through every inch of every facility we have, and agreed (with JMI Sports) to all the things that would be eligible for sponsorships, and those things that wouldn’t” reinforce feelings of many in the Penn community that the school’s administration is always looking for a buck and willing to trade off tradition for a (relatively) few dollars.
However, others will argue that Ivy hoops is growing in stature and trying to compete with the best mid-major and high major programs in the land. If Penn wants to consistently compete for Ivy Tournament appearances, as well as titles, with Harvard, Yale and Princeton, then it will need to find additional revenue streams to keep up with recruiting, coaches, support systems, student-athlete experiences and facilities. Teams that don’t keep up will find themselves in lower division irrelevancy, which was not met with great appreciation by Penn’s students and fans during most of the Glen Miller and Jerome Allen eras. Without counting on money from the school’s endowment and attempting to honor the past with the costly needs of the conference arms race, Penn Athletics is trying its best to make Solomonic decisions that will add more banners to the Palestra’s rafters. Time will tell which of these two viewpoints is correct.