The Business of College Sports: An Infographic of the Top Teams, Sponsors & Brands

When it comes to college sports, the top 20 teams dominate the field. It’s already college football season and as schools across the nation kick off the 2015-16 season, the sponsorship battle is heating up too. College athletic sponsorships are dominated by big brands like Nike ($7 billion in sponsorship commitments), but smaller brands like Under Armour ($400 million in sponsorship commitments) are also getting in on the action.

This Umbel infographic visualizes the current college sports landscape highlighting the top teams, sponsors, brands and stadiums across the country. A number of factors went into how we ranked the colleges with the most weight given to 2014 revenue, game attendance and performance of their football and basketball teams. To identify college sports fans’ brand affinities, we did a deep-dive into anonymized social data of more than 4 million unique fan profiles in the Umbel platform.

Recent news reports announced that the University of Texas Longhorns and Nike have reached a 15-year agreement on a deal that will be the most lucrative shoe and apparel deal in the history of college sports. The total sponsorship amount is expected to exceed the 15-year, $169-million contract that University of Michigan signed with Nike last summer. While most people can guess who the top jersey sponsors are, do teams really know what others brands are a good fit with their fans? Our research shows that some of the top brand affinities among college sports fans include Ford, Subway, Jack Daniels, Jeep, Chevrolet, Smirnoff, Starbucks, Mercedes Benz and Buffalo Wild Wings.

While the data confirmed a lot of things we already knew about college sports, there were also plenty of surprises in our findings. For example, did you know?

  • More than 30% of alcohol brand affinities at these schools was wine
  • Eminem is the most popular musician on social media among college sports fans
  • More than a third of college sports fans like eating at Subway
  • Auburn University in Alabama has the largest digital screen of any college sports stadium. At 190 feet x 57 feet (10,830 sq ft), their screen is two-thirds the size of a football field. Texas A&M had the second largest screen measuring 163 feet x 47 feet (7,661 sq ft) which is about half the size of a football field.
  • Stanford University became the first college to offer free Wi-Fi in their stadium as early as 2011, allowing fans to watch replays and get real-time statistics via a GameDay Live app. Fans can also use mobile devices to scan their tickets at the stadium entrance.
  • Nike will pay $169 million to sponsor the University of Michigan’s team uniforms – That’s what it costs to buy about 1 million college team’s football jerseys
  • Total college sports sponsorships for the 2014-15 season was $1.1 billion, an increase of 6% from the previous season. That’s almost equal to the GDP of small island nations like Antigua and the Solomon Islands.

Visualization of top college teams, sponsors, and brands

*Top 20 teams chosen based on total 2014 revenue and average attendance for Football + Basketball

**All brand affinities from Umbel is based on social data (example Facebook likes etc.)


Infographic Design: Chelsea Carlson

Infographic Research: Ryan Stanton