NCAA bylaws have historically prohibited collegiate institutions from entering into reciprocal marketing agreements with professional sports organizations. Entering an agreement that commits the professional organization to serving as a financial sponsor jeopardizes the eligibility of each student-athlete competing in the sponsored event. The NCAA, however, recently adopted an exception to this existing legislation (effective August 1, 2004) that allows an institution’s marketing department to enter into a reciprocal contractual relationship with professional sports organizations for the specific purpose of marketing and promoting an institutionally sponsored sport. Football and men’s basketball are excluded from this exception.

Scenario #1: An institution’s marketing department enters into an agreement with the local professional soccer team. As part of this agreement, during each professional soccer contest, a public address announcement publicizing the institution’s upcoming soccer games will be read. In addition, the institution is offering discounted admission to its games for fans that present a ticket stub from the professional soccer contest. Is this permissible?

A: Yes, it is permissible for an institution’s marketing department to enter into this type of agreement with a professional sports organization. The purpose and scope of that relationship, however, cannot extend beyond marketing and promoting the institutionally sponsored sport.

Scenario #2: The institution’s field hockey team enters into a cross-promotional agreement with the Cleveland Browns. During each field hockey contest, a drawing will be held for fans in attendance with the winner receiving two free tickets to the next Browns home football game. Is this permissible?

A: Yes. It is permissible for an institution to enter into an agreement with a professional football or basketball organization to market or promote any institutional team other than football and men’s basketball.

Scenario #3: The local professional basketball team would like to congratulate the institution’s men’s basketball team recently winning the national championship. The professional team has agreed to provide each team member with complimentary admissions to its contest so that it can introduce the team on the court to recognize their national title at halftime of the game. Is this permissible?

A: In this situation, yes, the activity is permissible because no formal agreement to promote and market the team has been made. Professional organizations may recognize a student-athlete and/or collegiate team for extraordinary achievements (e.g. winning a national championship) and the student-athletes may accept the complimentary admissions to the contest during which they are being recognized. It is also permissible for the professional sports organization to promote the event to the general public.

Please note that this new legislation is not effective until August 1, 2004. Institutions cannot enter into reciprocal marketing agreements until after that date. Finally, this article is only a general overview of these rules and regulations. For specific questions regarding these rules, please contact The Ohio State University Athletics Compliance Office at (614) 292-2681.