By Eben Novy-Williams
Sports Business Reporter
The Mid-American Conference is partnering with Genius Sports on a wide-ranging data and sponsorship agreement that the two sides are calling the first of its kind between an NCAA league and a data provider.
Under the deal, Genius Sports will capture, manage and distribute official MAC statistics for use by media companies and fan engagement platforms. The London-based company (NYSE: GENI) will also become, via a sublicense agreement, the sales agent for exclusive MAC sponsorship inventory.
One piece of Genius tech not currently provided in the agreement: sports betting services. Genius sells data from partners like the NFL and English Premier League to sportsbooks all around the world, but the NCAA has so far resisted monetizing its data that way. It also hasn’t signed commercial deals with sportsbooks for events like March Madness.
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That could change in the future, and Genius is positioning itself to capitalize should college sports warm further to the billions being spent in the U.S. by sportsbooks on faster data feeds and marketing rights. Genius is already a long-term partner with the NCAA, in a deal that currently prohibits the sale of data to sportsbooks. The MAC is the first individual conference to sign with Genius.
“This partnership will permit us to exert greater control of our statistics, provide increased oversight over events through the utilization of integrity services and provide support and financial benefits for the conference and its membership,” MAC commissioner Jon A. Steinbrecher said in a statement. “We have the responsibility to manage our assets and leverage those assets for the benefit of the student-athletes and our member institutions. The partnership with Genius Sports will assist us in those efforts.”
Under this deal, Genius’ NCAA LiveStats, the NCAA’s official tool for data collection and distribution, will be rolled out for all MAC competitions. Genius will include video tech from Second Spectrum, and build free-to-play games to help the MAC and its partners find other ways to engage with fans.
On the sponsorship side, MAC partner JMI Sports will sublicense the conference’s sponsorship rights to Genius Sports, which will be responsible for selling those rights—and sharing proceeds with the league. That includes access to the MAC football championship game and the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. It covers in-stadium signage, digital media advertising and other marketing avenues.
Founded in 1946, the 12-member MAC includes Toledo, Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan. The conference sponsors championships in 24 sports, and has carved out a unique piece of the college football schedule by playing mid-week games in November, nicknamed MACtion, which gives it a higher profile across ESPN networks—and a potential series of college football gambling windows all to itself.
The deal also involves Genius’ integrity monitoring services.
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