Move over college athletics.

Looking to unlock a new source of revenue, a small but growing number of colleges and universities are launching sponsorship programs that extend beyond athletics.

Case in point: The University of Washington has launched a program that spans multiple departments across multiple campuses. The school is close to securing its first two sponsors for the program.

And other schools are taking a similar path.

“We are seeing more interest in cross-campus programs—We’re now talking to university presidents instead of athletic departments,” said a principal at a sponsorship sales agency that specializes in collegiate and professional sports properties. The sales vet did not want to be named until the program is formally launched.

To be sure, the deals can be lucrative. The Ohio State University last year announced a 15-year, $125 million partnership with Huntington Bank that includes on-campus branches, ATMs and loans for community development.

The Columbus, Ohio-based bank over the past two years has signed similar—albeit smaller—deals with Cleveland State University and the University of Toledo and plans to ink similar ties with other schools.

“Universities are looking for more broad and holistic ways of unlocking value,” said Dave Schamer, Huntington’s director of non-for-profit banking.

Other schools also have expanded their sponsorship programs beyond sports. As reported by IEG SR, the University of California, Los Angeles launched a campus-wide program in 2009 as a platform to generate non-traditional revenue and offset budget shortfalls.  The deals largely center on sponsorship of specific events.

Case Study: The University of Washington
The University of Washington launched its sponsorship initiative in March 2012 with a program that spans its Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses.

The goal of the program: access new revenue streams and enhance the student experience.

To ensure the program is credible, the school is being selective with whom it works.

“First and foremost, there needs to be a mission and values alignment and a clear benefit to students and the community,” said Jane Zalutsky, principal and founder of JZworks, a marketing, sponsorship and business development agency that developed the program on behalf of the school’s external affairs and advancement departments.

The program gives the university an infrastructure to manage relationships and maximize revenue, said Steven Bell, UDub’s sponsorship director, noting that many of the school’s departments already sell sponsorship and/or have existing relationships with local and national companies.

“The reality is, sponsorship is already happening, but it’s coming in 100 side doors. Once we realized that, we said ‘Let’s put a fence around this, make a front door and maximize and control what we’re doing.’”

Rather than offering packages with predetermined benefits, the school takes a customized approach by creating packages tailored to each prospect’s needs. That could range from overseas study programs, sustainability initiatives and other platforms that revolve around education and learning.

The need to structure programs that enhance the student experience is critical, said Bell, noting that any deal needs to provide value for both parties.

“We have to think at the highest level of sponsorship—that’s the only place we can play. We don’t want to offer logo impressions, hand out coupons in front of library or distribute branded T-shirts. We have to play in rarefied air.”

The school is focusing on Seattle-based companies in the technology, financial services, beverage and other categories, said Bell, noting that the sponsorship sales team is mindful not to cannibalize existing relationships with the university’s advancement department.

“We want everything we do to be additive, not refocused or diminutive. We have to be mindful that we’re enhancing relationships.”

The school also plans to offer B2B partnerships that provide business back to corporate partners, said Bell, pointing to the beverage category as an example. As a state institution, any such deals need to follow the proper guidelines, he added. “It absolutely makes sense, but we have to structure deals correctly.”

JZworks created the program after interviewing students, department heads and other stakeholders. UDub launched the program after gaining buy-in from university president Michael Young, provost Ana Mari Cauce and other school leaders.

“Having that top-down mandate is critical for success,” said Bell.

The school is still determining how it will distribute money internally once a deal is secured, said Bell. The funds will most likely be distributed to each participating department and/or to the provost’s office to support university activities, he said.

In addition to Bell, UDub’s sponsorship department has two other staffers. The staffers reside within the school’s marketing department.