With college and high school football officially back in the books and teams look for new ways to engage with the community, one company, Varsity Brands, is pushing one of sports’ most traditional rallying points –cheerleading – into new spaces. With cheerleaders at the forefront of community events, brand activations, and the athletic departments at the school, company founder/Chairman Jeff Webb has guided the company’s three business units: Herff Jones, BSN Sports, and Varsity Spirit to combined sales of over $1.2 billion with Varsity Spirit generating revenues of $350 million and employing over 850 employees.
Cynopsis Sports asked Webb about changes in the cheerleading industry, speedbumps with sponsor activations and its potential as an Olympic event.
Webb on the growing utilization of cheer: At the college level, athletic departments are utilizing their spirit teams to make many appearances to generate visibility and enthusiasm for the school. This includes television as well as live events like alumni gatherings, tailgating, etc. This means that many of the larger programs are sponsoring even larger cheer teams, and in some cases multiple teams to be able to handle the additional time requirements.
On working with school sponsors: The increased role of sponsors can be a double-edged sword. While the cheerleaders often help execute the sponsor activations at games, it means less time for them to lead the crowd in support of the athletic teams. On the other hand, the sponsors help promote the school and generate additional revenue for the athletic department, which in turn can mean additional budget dollars for the cheerleaders, dance team and mascots.
On Varsity-branded media channels: Varsity currently has a media channel for our spirit division and we are in late stage discussions to partner with traditional media to extend our presence in this area. We are also exploring how to expand our media activity to include our two other divisions, BSN Sports and Herff Jones.
On the Olympics: Together with 107 other countries, we are working with the International Cheer Union for recognition by the IOC. We believe Cheer fits the bill perfectly for what many say the IOC is seeking. The sport of cheerleading is young, includes both men and women, is telegenic and exciting to watch. It is especially appealing to young audiences. The recognition process can be long and arduous, but we are committed to doing whatever we can to help the millions of young people who participate have the global forum to compete and showcase their skills.