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How Gonzaga’s ‘unparalleled’ decades of dominance have led to national sponsorship clout

Chet Holmgren joins actor Milana Vayntrub, right, in an ad for AT&T.  (Screenshot)
Chet Holmgren joins actor Milana Vayntrub, right, in an ad for AT&T. (Screenshot)

Maybe you’ve seen former Gonzaga basketball standouts Chet Holmgren and Adam Morrison in AT&T commercials during NCAA Tournament game breaks. Or Spike the Bulldog in Nissan ads.

Gonzaga’s tournament success, including its eighth straight Sweet 16 appearance this Thursday, vaulted the school into the national spotlight, and big companies like AT&T want a piece of it.

Mark Livingston, general manager of Gonzaga Sports Properties, credited Gonzaga men’s basketball coach Mark Few for bringing great student-athletes to Spokane.

“That is something that these corporations I think see and recognize and see the power of the Gonzaga brand now,” Livingston said. “And you see it on a national level. It’s cool just to be able to see what that’s done to help promote the university. But it really comes down to our administration, our university and what these kids have done on the basketball floor. It’s really cool to see that success translate over to what you see on national television.”

Livingston sells sponsorships for Gonzaga as part of LEARFIELD, a multimedia rights holder that allows companies like AT&T to use the Gonzaga logo. He said Northern Quest Resort and Casino, which features Gonzaga star Drew Timme in its commercials, is Gonzaga’s largest corporate partner on a local and national level.

Livingston said he’s unsure how many times ads featuring Gonzaga run during the course of the NCAA Tournament. AT&T and Nissan are the largest national companies featuring the school’s players, mascot and logo.

Gonzaga athletics has 70 to 80 corporate sponsors, Livingston said, including dozens of local television ads like Toyota and Bill’s Heating and Air Conditioning.

Livingston has a unique perspective on Gonzaga’s rise in prominence because he worked for the university during the men’s team’s first Elite Eight run in 1999. He returned in 2012 to his current general manager position at a time when the Bulldogs had already cemented their status as a regular in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga’s brand has always been great locally, Livingston said. It then grew regionally to the Seattle and Portland areas, and now, nationally.

“The success we’ve had has been unparalleled,” Livingston said. “None of that’s possible without the success on the basketball floor, for sure.”

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