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UCSD's costly ad switch: Chargers to Trolley

$1.3 million football deal eclipsed by $27.7 million MTS contract

With the Chargers appearing on the brink of leaving town, the University of California at San Diego is casting about for a new way to spend its prodigious pile of promotional cash.

Lightning Ladies sponsorship cost UCSD some big bucks

As first reported here in August 2011, UCSD's Health Sciences Division inked a deal that year with the Chargers to become the official “Hospital and Healthcare Systems” sponsor of the team's "Lightning Ladies" women's club, and any other "Chargers female fan initiatives.”

The honor bore an NFL-style price tag.

According to UCSD's contract with the team, the university was to pay the Chargers $300,000 in 2011; $318,000 the year after; $337,080 in 2013; and $357,304 during the final year of 2014, for a grand total of about $1.3 million.

In return, each year university officials received four club-level season tickets and two parking passes, to be used, according to Kim Kennedy, executive director of marketing and communications for UC Health, for hosting would-be clinical faculty during recruiting visits here.

Other perks included a “Training Camp Chalk Talk,” described as a private session for 150 people.

That event featured a "Chalk Talk with a Chargers Alumni," as well as "autographed merchandise for raffle,” and “coach and player autograph opportunities.”

In addition to radio and TV spots adjacent to game coverage, the deal provided for “two tweets from the Chargers Official Twitter account" and “Two JumboTron UCSD Health Systems thank you’s,” plus a kiosk in the Chargers Bud Light Power Party tent “prior to each regular season home game.”

During “UCSD Health System Awareness Day," at Qualcomm Stadium, the agreement added, “65,000 dual branded premium items” were to be “distributed to fans upon entry.”

Even four years ago, there were questions about the length of the team's San Diego stay.

If the Chargers “permanently relocate and play their Home Games at a location other than [Qualcomm] Stadium," the contract said, the team and UCSD "shall each have the right to terminate this Agreement upon written notice to the other, and the parties will negotiate in good faith to determine equitable terms for such termination.”

Asked about it at the time, Chargers spokesman Bill Johnson sent over a statement by email.

"These are standard provisions in all of our agreements, and they have been there since 2007 when the lease with the City included the annual termination option," wrote Johnson.

"As a result, all of our agreements must account for this possibility. This includes similar language in all Club Seat and Suite agreements. Of course, that was more than four years ago and the team has never exercised the clause.”

But the situation has changed, and UCSD seems near to finding a new home for its sponsorship largesse, at significantly increased cost.

According to a proposal set for consideration at the July 16 board meeting of the Metropolitan Transit System, the university would come up with an annual $675,000 from 2015 through 2018 for Blue Line trolley naming rights and related promotional perks.

Thereafter, the annual payment would jump to $945,000 a year through 2044, bringing the total price of the contemplated package to about $27.7 million.

In addition to the new "UC San Diego Blue Line," the currently named Old Town Trolley station would become "Old Town UC San Diego Health Campus South."

The planned Pepper Canyon Drive station would be known as "UC San Diego Main Campus" and the Voight Drive stop would be "UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center," giving Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs the unique distinction of having double naming rights.

(The proposed contract notes that other station naming rights on the line may also be up for grabs.)

As in the case of its deal with the Chargers, the university would be entitled to have certain days for exclusive events at the stations and aboard the trolleys themselves.

Besides that, says the document, "UC San Diego logos will be placed on Trolley bridges over Interstate 5 and on elevated track in the University City area."

And there's more.

"The UC San Diego name designation will be on all Blue Line rail station signs, Trolley route maps, published schedules, on one-way tickets printed in vending machines, and all other published materials with Blue Line information."

Additionally, "UC San Diego may wrap up to six light rail vehicles and advertise in stations at Old Town, on campus, and at University Town Center."

And if UC Health competitors, research institutes, or other universities want to promote themselves on the trolley line, they would be out of luck, the contract indicates.

"UC San Diego will have exclusivity for all advertising on the Blue Line in categories of healthcare, research and higher education."

According to the document: "The partnership is in combination with UC San Diego and UC San Diego Health. All funding from UC San Diego is from non-state sources."

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With the Chargers appearing on the brink of leaving town, the University of California at San Diego is casting about for a new way to spend its prodigious pile of promotional cash.

Lightning Ladies sponsorship cost UCSD some big bucks

As first reported here in August 2011, UCSD's Health Sciences Division inked a deal that year with the Chargers to become the official “Hospital and Healthcare Systems” sponsor of the team's "Lightning Ladies" women's club, and any other "Chargers female fan initiatives.”

The honor bore an NFL-style price tag.

According to UCSD's contract with the team, the university was to pay the Chargers $300,000 in 2011; $318,000 the year after; $337,080 in 2013; and $357,304 during the final year of 2014, for a grand total of about $1.3 million.

In return, each year university officials received four club-level season tickets and two parking passes, to be used, according to Kim Kennedy, executive director of marketing and communications for UC Health, for hosting would-be clinical faculty during recruiting visits here.

Other perks included a “Training Camp Chalk Talk,” described as a private session for 150 people.

That event featured a "Chalk Talk with a Chargers Alumni," as well as "autographed merchandise for raffle,” and “coach and player autograph opportunities.”

In addition to radio and TV spots adjacent to game coverage, the deal provided for “two tweets from the Chargers Official Twitter account" and “Two JumboTron UCSD Health Systems thank you’s,” plus a kiosk in the Chargers Bud Light Power Party tent “prior to each regular season home game.”

During “UCSD Health System Awareness Day," at Qualcomm Stadium, the agreement added, “65,000 dual branded premium items” were to be “distributed to fans upon entry.”

Even four years ago, there were questions about the length of the team's San Diego stay.

If the Chargers “permanently relocate and play their Home Games at a location other than [Qualcomm] Stadium," the contract said, the team and UCSD "shall each have the right to terminate this Agreement upon written notice to the other, and the parties will negotiate in good faith to determine equitable terms for such termination.”

Asked about it at the time, Chargers spokesman Bill Johnson sent over a statement by email.

"These are standard provisions in all of our agreements, and they have been there since 2007 when the lease with the City included the annual termination option," wrote Johnson.

"As a result, all of our agreements must account for this possibility. This includes similar language in all Club Seat and Suite agreements. Of course, that was more than four years ago and the team has never exercised the clause.”

But the situation has changed, and UCSD seems near to finding a new home for its sponsorship largesse, at significantly increased cost.

According to a proposal set for consideration at the July 16 board meeting of the Metropolitan Transit System, the university would come up with an annual $675,000 from 2015 through 2018 for Blue Line trolley naming rights and related promotional perks.

Thereafter, the annual payment would jump to $945,000 a year through 2044, bringing the total price of the contemplated package to about $27.7 million.

In addition to the new "UC San Diego Blue Line," the currently named Old Town Trolley station would become "Old Town UC San Diego Health Campus South."

The planned Pepper Canyon Drive station would be known as "UC San Diego Main Campus" and the Voight Drive stop would be "UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center," giving Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs the unique distinction of having double naming rights.

(The proposed contract notes that other station naming rights on the line may also be up for grabs.)

As in the case of its deal with the Chargers, the university would be entitled to have certain days for exclusive events at the stations and aboard the trolleys themselves.

Besides that, says the document, "UC San Diego logos will be placed on Trolley bridges over Interstate 5 and on elevated track in the University City area."

And there's more.

"The UC San Diego name designation will be on all Blue Line rail station signs, Trolley route maps, published schedules, on one-way tickets printed in vending machines, and all other published materials with Blue Line information."

Additionally, "UC San Diego may wrap up to six light rail vehicles and advertise in stations at Old Town, on campus, and at University Town Center."

And if UC Health competitors, research institutes, or other universities want to promote themselves on the trolley line, they would be out of luck, the contract indicates.

"UC San Diego will have exclusivity for all advertising on the Blue Line in categories of healthcare, research and higher education."

According to the document: "The partnership is in combination with UC San Diego and UC San Diego Health. All funding from UC San Diego is from non-state sources."

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Comments
9

Aside from what this shift may portend for the Chargers, to whom the University of Caiifornia San Diego Medical School (that's really who we're talking about when we say "Health Sciences") has paid out a lot of money for ridiculous promotion of its name, it seems another fortune will go to confuse riders on the San Diego trolley. "Old Town UC San Diego Health Campus South?" Are they kidding? The dwindling downtown hospital presence of UCSD is miles away from that stop, over on Front St. in far Hillcrest. And what does that mean, anyway, "All funding from UC San Diego is from non-state sources?" Private donors? Just doesn't seem right.

July 14, 2015

Once again, as I began to read this blog post, I had that uncanny feeling that it was a Mencken piece. But no, it wasn't that at all, and sounds legit, if very hard to believe. This is the first indication I had that the new Trolley extension up through UCSD and then to UTC would be part of the Blue Line. (In case you don't know, that's the line from Old Town south to the border. Not exactly a silk-stocking route.)

UCSD over many years was a big opponent of the Trolley coming north and serving the campus. Oh, as PC types, the opposition was never about the unwashed coming to their campus, or anything that might insinuate that ordinary working stiffs (i.e. poor) needed to get to work on campus. No, the opposition for a couple decades was based on other and less obvious grounds. But in the past two or three years, UCSD embraced the idea of the Trolley, and now even plans to have it serve the campus and the VA complex on the west side of I-5. (I'd always figured they wanted it only as long as it stayed east of I-5 and barely grazed the part of campus that was also on the east side.)

The dollar figure mentioned here by Matt is just over-the-top. I mean, who looks at those red trolleys? Who rides them? Does any of this jibe with the image that UCSD is trying to create and maintain? The difference may be due to their attempt to make the medical facilities, including the old Hillcrest hospital, appear to be 21st century. Remember that for oldsters like myself, that facility was once called County Hospital, and it wasn't all that well-regarded. In fact it was seen as the hospital of last resort.

These awkward-sounding "sponsor" names and some of the other features just don't make a lot of sense. To promote the hospitals and other facilities, you need something that is pointed and clear. Hanging a fancy name on the Old Town Station doesn't change it at all. It merely confuses Trolley and Coaster users who aren't all that up on such names. A bunch of other similarly renamed station stops and features won't make the riders feel more comfortable. What this all will do is confuse and obfuscate. There are far cheaper ways to obfuscate.

July 14, 2015

Clearly UCSD has more money than it knows what to do with.

July 15, 2015

That's probably why they've been granting out-of-state students financial aid.

July 15, 2015

I think Metro ought to retire the "Trolley" moniker. "Trolley" usually means "plodding, slow street car". North County calls thier system the "Sprinter", which evokes speed. Here in Seattle, our light rail is named "Link". I think "Clipper" would make a wonderful name for San Diego's light rail system, given the area's maritime setting.

July 16, 2015

At the monthly MTS board meeting this morning, the contract was unanimously approved. That was in spite of some very pointed criticism and objections by the University Ciity planning group, Scripps Hospital, and others. Their ire was largely that they hadn't even known about this until about 36 hours prior to the meeting, and that this branding had some big implications. All of them asked the board to defer action, and send the plan back to staff to engage in a more participative approach. Marti Emerald made the best case for waiting. Ah, but good old Ron Roberts came to its defense, and warned that the deal was a "sensitive" one, and that delay could blow it. So, by the time a vote was taken, the motion was to approve, with the proviso that the community be consulted about the details. But one thing was missed and that's that the contract already embodies many details. And they are things that are going to stick in the craws of those who live near UCSD. In spite of the objections, the board rammed it through and blew off the objections.

July 16, 2015

I am disgusted with the whole concept of a "Not-for Profit" publically supported Institution such as UCSD and the UC Health system committing this much funding to a pure advertising scheme. I can think of numerous ways that $30 Million could be used to promote healthy living through investments in recreational facilities, programs and clinic availability throughout our communities. I ask what's going to happen with the $188 Million that the Metropolitain Water District is receiving? How will that be returned to the public that already paid in? One hopes it's not big raises to the staff of the district as they pat themselves on the back!!!! Perhaps it will be used to improve the water service in the city or for improvements to some of our public facilities, Balboa Park and Morley Field perhaps, both sitting on 30 year old "20 year plans" never started. I will be working on "Shovel Ready" Projects for the next time these crazy schemes involving these kinds of $$$$ show up. BBQ

July 17, 2015

LIke you, I have a big problem with a state-supported university getting into big business, and throwing money around as if it owed nothing to the state or students. These medical centers run by UC here, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Davis are now big, big business. If you think because they are university-run and/or just run to have teaching facilities, will be charitable or more kindly, think again. They are run for profit, yet they have no stockholders to report to. Yes, there has to be a better use of $30 million over 30 years than this self-promotion.

July 17, 2015

A rose is a rose is a UCSD Health Center? It's not the most preferred scenario, but at least it's not the Chargers purchasing the naming rights and the NFL subsidizing regional transit. Oh, wait a second...

July 22, 2015

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