The Big Ten and the ACC both recently announced agreements with the Pinstripe Bowl in New York and will match up at Yankee Stadium every December from 2014-19. The tie-in bowl is just part of a push by both conferences to increase their profiles in the coveted New York market. The ACC on Monday welcomed Syracuse as a new member and held several announcements, complete with mascots, in New York City. Next July, the Big Ten will add Rutgers as a new member as it pushes for a bigger presence in the northeast corridor.
Both leagues will have a year-round marketing presence at Yankee Stadium, including fixed signs on the facade.
With the Big Ten and the ACC both gunning for Gotham, today's Take Two topic is: Which league will establish a bigger presence in the New York market? ACC blogger Andrea Adelson and Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg debate.
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
AA, we really should be debating which commissioner, Jim Delany or John Swofford, displayed better form in throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. We both know it's difficult for any college team or college conference to make a major impact in a market where pro sports always will be king. But as someone who lives in a pro town/major market (Chicago), I can tell you there is a sizable segment of college sports fans with many different allegiances who will welcome the product with open arms. And though New York doesn't have as many Big Ten fans/alumni as Chicago, there are enough to make the league a successful product.
The Big Ten might not be the best football conference between the lines, but it remains a branding giant, in part because of its massive fan bases around the country. There are Big Ten bars and alumni clubs in most major cities, including New York. The overall numbers favor the Big Ten in a big way.
As I wrote last fall, the Big Ten's addition of Rutgers and Maryland was motivated more by its existing product than either of the new members. While Rutgers gives the Big Ten a boost in the New York/New Jersey market, the real victory is being able to showcase bigger products like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State more often. New York has the University of Michigan's third largest concentration of alumni outside of Detroit and Chicago. Ohio State has more alumni in New York than any other out-of-state region except for Washington D.C./Northern Virginia. Penn State has nearly 30,000 alumni in the New York-New Jersey market.
The ACC simply can't match that. Sure, it can hold its basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden, and Syracuse is a school that resonates in New York. But New York sports fans will have an easier time connecting with traditional football powers like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. The ACC still is perceived as a Southern league. The Big Ten is rooted in the Midwest, but has some of its major members located much closer to New York. Maybe it'd be different if the ACC added Notre Dame as a full football member, but Notre Dame football will continue to be seen as an independent.
The Big Ten has made not only New York, but the entire northeast corridor its top priority in the next few years as it starts the process of negotiating what will be a massive new television contract. It will have a satellite office, most likely in New York, and Delany, a New Jersey native, knows the region and its power players extremely well. Although distribution for the Big Ten Network won't be easy, Delany gives us no reasons to doubt him.
Both leagues will face challenges to gain a foothold in New York, but the Big Ten comes in with bigger brands, a successful television network and fan bases that will be excited to have their favorite teams in their backyard more often. I expect "I love B1G" T-shirts to be on sale in Times Square within two years.
Take 2: Andrea Adelson
When the ACC officially welcomed Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame into the league this week, it could have settled for a staid news conference at its home base in North Carolina.
Instead, the ACC turned its eyes to the largest media market in the world and proclaimed, "We want this to be ours." Representatives rang the NASDAQ closing bell. League mascots ran amok across the city, a genius marketing move that had folks tweeting and re-tweeting for hours. Swofford smiled and took in the whole scene, a fresh start for a league perceived to be a step behind all the rest.
But this move proves otherwise. The ACC made a forward-thinking decision to hold its welcome celebration in New York, while also sending a message to its dear old friends in the Big Ten. The largest media market in the world is waiting to be turned into the largest college sports media market in the world. The ACC and Big Ten see this. That is why Delany has discussed the magnitude of getting into New York with the addition of Rutgers.
That is why both leagues have signed a bowl agreement with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium, complete with signage during regular-season Yankee games. That is why the ACC stormed New York on Monday, (hashtag #ACCtakesNYC) with Swofford announcing that New York City “is a very important part of our new footprint.”
The contest to "own" New York City is on. And I believe the ACC has a distinct advantage. Certainly, the Big Ten has a great deal of alums in the area. But it’s not as if there is an ACC vacuum there. Syracuse has 46,000 alumni in New York City alone. North Carolina has at least 10,000. Pitt and BC are all within a six-hour drive. There is even an ACC Alumni club.
But where the Big Ten might believe it has an advantage with the “power” programs like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, the ACC can draw on another sport to help it win over New Yorkers: basketball. The ACC is angling to play its men’s basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden after its deal with Greensboro, N.C., expires.
Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame all enjoyed incredible success playing in front of sold-out crowds at MSG as part of the old Big East. That arena is a home away from home for the Orange. Though football has far eclipsed basketball on the TV side, I believe the ACC can use its basketball prestige and popularity to help its football product make inroads in New York City.
The Big Ten will get its annual pub at the Pinstripe Bowl. But the ACC stands to get not only its pub from that bowl game, but a nearly week-long advertisement for the league in its entirety with a basketball tournament in New York, too.
Yes, there are tens of thousands of alumni of Big Ten schools in New York. But going into that city with a two-sport approach gives the ACC an edge when it comes to taking a big bite out of the Big Apple.