Ohio University men's basketball’s Mid-American Conference championship victory and NCAA tournament run were exciting enough for students and fans alike, but it gave OU and Athens businesses even more reason to celebrate: financial leverage.
After OU defeated Buffalo to win the MAC championship, stores around Athens wasted no time in seizing the economic opportunity.
Gene Armes, general manager at College Book Store, said the store had MAC Championship shirts designed and ready to print before the game was even played in case OU won. Once OU won, the shirts that were not NCAA-affiliated were offered for sale on the College Book Store’s website within minutes and in the physical store by noon of March 14.
UniversiTEES, located at 30 N. Court St., also sold MAC Championship shirts online and in-store following OU’s win, Lee Barber, store manager at UniversiTEES, said.
While neither store commented on the exact dollar amount of revenue driven from MAC championship apparel sales, both Armes and Barber said their stores experienced an increase in customer traffic and sales following OU’s victory, which was needed to offset some of the strains put on the stores by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Bobcat's post season run was a welcomed boost to our traffic and sales at a time when all retailers are struggling to make ends meet due to the effects of COVID 19 and the decreased student presence here on campus,” Armes said in an email. “The tournament related shirts have all sold very well with some designs being completely sold out in selected sizes.”
Although some stores did benefit from OU’s postseason success, OU saw the biggest financial gains.
Mike Ashcraft, assistant athletics director for communications at OU, said the university received a $50,000 payout from the MAC for winning the MAC championship. Additionally, Ashcraft said Adidas paid OU $15,000 for its postseason success. Licensing deals also played a large role.
“In regard to athletic department revenue, the most immediate financial impact is through royalties from licensed apparel sales and activated bonuses tied to post season success,” Ashcraft said in an email. “By winning a game in the tournament, Ohio earned the Mid-American Conference an NCAA unit point that will provide new revenue to be divided up among MAC member institutions over the next six years.”
OU’s victory over Virginia in the NCAA tournament additionally amplified the university’s profits. However, many of the benefits from the tournament win are not directly financial, Ashcraft said.
“Brand lift and social media engagement garnered from an NCAA tournament appearance will be felt throughout campus for several years and can impact athletic recruiting, university enrollment and student engagement,” Ashcraft said in an email.
In order to take advantage of OU’s increased airtime on a national scale, the university invested in local advertising spots to air during games, Carly Leatherwood, university spokesperson, said. The money spent on advertising came from an existing planned media venture.
OU spent $13,702.50 on advertising spots in the Columbus market, Leatherwood said. The spots encompassed 27 of the first-round games, including the first four matchups.
OU also spent $1,228.50 in the Dayton market and $1,890 in the Charleston market, Leatherwood said.
“As part of our media buying philosophy, we believe live sports are a great opportunity to get our brand in front of potential students, parents and University alumni,” Leatherwood said in an email. “We regularly purchase advertising during high-profile games, including when Ohio University’s athletic teams are competing on a national stage.”
In terms of other expenses to OU, Ashcraft said travel, hotel and meal expenses were directly covered by the NCAA.
Benefits will aid OU in its future endeavors, both inside and outside of athletics, Ashcraft said.
In OU’s 2020-21 budget book, there is $18,266,973 allocated for athletics revenue and $18,228,866 for athletics expenses.
“Licensed apparel royalties, increased ticket sales and MAC revenue distribution will be directed to the athletics budget while the potential boost to university enrollment will benefit the university as a whole,” Ashcraft said in an email. “Our goal will be to generate additional revenue this fall and winter through increased ticket sales and donations.”