Outsourcing Sport Marketing Operations by NCAA Division I Athletic Programs: An Exploratory Study

Ming Li
Willie Burden

The outsourcing of marketing operations and rights is a common practice in American college athletics. It is estimated that over half of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I athletic programs have outsourced some or all of their marketing operations and rights to nationally prominent marketing companies. Nevertheless, a number of Division I-A athletic programs are keeping their marketing operations in-house. This study was designed to examine this polarized development in collegiate marketing. It is hoped that the study will help athletic programs contemplating whether or not to outsource marketing operations make more rational decisions. A survey was the primary means of data collection. One hundred twenty-seven athletic directors from Division I-A and Division I-AA athletic programs participated in the study. The results of this study indicate that more than half of Division I athletic programs have been exercising the outsourcing option partially or entirely. While a majority of Division I-A institutions were taking advantage of outsourcing options, less than half of the athletic programs in Division I-AA do. Results of the study also show that the decision to outsource or not was strongly influenced by the responsible athletic administrator’s perceptions of outsourcing. The reasons cited for outsourcing or not differed greatly between respondents whose athletic programs have chosen outsourcing and respondents whose programs still operated marketing internally.