AU ends four season partnership with Nationals
University did not renew contract in an effort to reduce spending
AU terminated its four season long marketing partnership with the Washington Nationals this year in an effort to reduce spending and determine new ways to advertise the University.
For the past four seasons AU had an exclusive marketing partnership with DC’s Major League Baseball team. Under the exclusive relationship contract, AU was the only higher-education partner in Nationals Park, and other university competitors were not permitted to advertise.
AU had a yearly contract with the Nationals which was renewed every year for four seasons. The decision to continue or terminate the partnership is based on evaluations with the University Marketing Task Force on the previous season’s effectiveness and investment value, according to Terry Flannery, the Vice President for Communications.
“That level of sponsorship was of greater value but also more expensive,” said Flannery. “It was tremendously useful for us in trying to establish awareness and perceptions of the University’s quality when you have no other contenders in park at the same time.”
The cost of the partnership could not be disclosed under a proprietary agreement with the Nationals. However, over the past four years, the cost of the exclusive partnership did increase, according to Flannery.
“The University found this as an incredibly valuable partnership over four years and we didn't end it lightly,” she added “We got an incredible benefit out of it but we are really trying to mind our budget and cost of expenditures in an era where we are trying to keep tuition increases to the smallest possible level, trying to engage in efficiencies in our budget and determining if the partnership can do more for us.”
The exclusive partnership also included the opportunity for AU to hold a special event at Nats Park. The event, called Celebrate AU Night at Nats Park, allowed the University to host an Alumni Barbecue, provided tickets for students, faculty, staff and alumni at discounted prices, welcomed someone affiliated with the AU community to throw the first pitch and for an AU acappella group to sing the National Anthem.
“Usually over a thousand AU affiliates attended those games,” Flannery said.
The Nationals declined to share details of the partnership.
“We really enjoyed our partnership with American University; however, we do not comment on the specifics of our partnerships,” said a spokesperson for the Nationals.
The Celebrate AU Night will not happen this year, though other on-campus events are scheduled for Welcome Week and the first week of classes.
During the four season partnership, surveys of Nationals fans were conducted to measure changes in awareness and perceptions of AU. The survey was conducted at the beginning of the season and again at the end of the season, according to Flannery.
“Every season we saw an increase in awareness and changes in perceptions of the University.” said Flannery. “In comparing awareness among fans from spring to fall among fans in 2015, awareness as an excellent university increased 111% ”
In another survey question regarding which university in the region was most involved in the community, AU was rated number one by game attendees in community involvement for all four seasons.
Though the partnership with the Nationals is over, AU maintains a marketing partnership with the Washington Post and continues to explore opportunities to partner with other Washington organizations, according to Flannery.
“We will look at what the relationship can do for both organizations, that can be educational, cultural, arts,sports, news and communications,” she said. “If they help position the University in the Washington region, have a national outreach, and extend benefits to our community and make sense in terms of our values and are of reasonable cost, we will continue to consider them.”