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Correction appended.

A partnership forged between Brown and a sports marketing company last year has helped soften the blow to the athletics department in the current recession, according to the University.

In May 2008, the department signed a contract with Nelligan Sports Marketing to increase sponsorships and advertisements surrounding Brown athletics, said Director of Athletics Michael Goldberger. Before the contract, Rick Merriam, then assistant athletic director for marketing, had been largely responsible for soliciting outside funding. But Merriam, who helped bring in the company, left Brown for another job soon after Nelligan's arrival to College Hill.

With a university-wide hiring freeze in place, the Department of Athletics could not refill Merriam's position. "Rick was very good," Goldberger said. "I can't see how we could have possibly done as well as we're doing right now" if the company hadn't been hired.

The company's performance has improved in the last three and a half months. Since the start of the current fiscal year, athletics has already taken in more sponsorship dollars than it did in the previous fiscal year. The money is split almost equally between Brown athletics and the company, Goldberger said.

National names such as Dunkin' Donuts, AT&T, Domino's Pizza and Taco Bell were brought in by the company, bringing the number of Brown coporate sponsorships to 35. Nelligan Sports Marketing has also minted ties with local restaurants, the Brown Bookstore and the Brown Alumni Association.

The new sponsorships have earned the University more than just money. When the Department of Athletics hosted the Adidas-Brown Soccer Classic last month, it was able to give the Southern Methodist University soccer team free lodging because of sponsorships established with local hotels.

Advertising and sponsorship revenue is factored into the athletic department's base yearly budget, which means that any excess income reduces the amount of money the University gives to the department.

Although the extra cost of hiring the company has so far outweighed the added revenue, Goldberger said he remains optimistic.

"It's one of those things that we felt would take two or three years to build up to a level where it could really be beneficial for us," he said.

The five-year contract has a renewable option if the company meets revenue goals, according to Goldberger. "If they achieve what they set out to do, then we'll renew," he said.

The idea to hire an outside sports marketing firm was first suggested by the President's Advisory Council on Athletics—a group of trustees, former trustees and experts in athletics, Goldberger said.

The department chose Nelligan Sports Marketing because of the company's already-existing partnership with nearby Providence College, and because it had more of a national presence than many other firms under consideration.

"Some of the other groups that we looked at were more local, and I thought that one of the real pluses of a school like Brown is its national reputation," Goldberger said. "To deal with organizations that have a much broader base, a much wider spread network, we think could be beneficial to us in the long run."

But the company was not able to maintain all of Brown's past sponsorships. The University's General Manager of Sports Marketing Tony D'Arcangelo, who is also the company's representative on campus, said some sponsorships were renegotiated and others were dissolved.

Some businesses that had been looking for exclusive partnerships with Brown, backed out when the company signed national competitors. For instance, Ronzio Pizza and Subs stopped sponsoring Brown athletics after its deal with Domino's Pizza.

But according to D'Arcangelo, almost every local sponsor that Brown lost was replaced by a national sponsor.

Goldberger added that the University will never sign a deal with an alcohol or gambling company.

Nelligan Sports Marketing, which also has partnerships with Princeton and UPenn, represents 25 schools, conferences and bowls across the country. It recently signed another contract with Harvard.

An article in Monday's paper ("Marketing firm brings big bucks for Brown athletics," Oct. 19) incorrectly stated that Nelligan Sports Marketing recently signed a contract with Harvard University.  In fact, Harvard is not under contract with the company.


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