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Inside Learfield’s Acquisition of ANC Sports

Move helps parent company expand its portfolio, helps integrator make inroads into college and other markets.

After building itself into one of the go-to companies for professional sports teams looking to add a new video board, digital signage and other AV displays to their arenas, ANC Sports began to branch out and do similar work on college campuses, including at Penn State.

As part of that reach into a new market, ANC’s work caught the eye of Learfield Sports president and CEO Greg Brown, whose company serves as marketing rights holder for more than 100 colleges and universities, with signage and radio, TV and print advertisements.

That’s why ANC sold controlling interest to Learfield on Feb. 27 in a deal that keeps the ANC name and staff in place but gives Learfield capabilities it didn’t have and allows ANC to continue its push into relatively new areas for them. Discussions lasted two or three months.

“This is an exciting move for Learfield Sports,” says Brown. “So often, we are in discussions with our collegiate partners about new stadium or arena technology needs and display capabilities and having this expertise in our family of services will be a huge asset.”

And, although ANC Sports founder, president and CEO Jerry Cifarelli says “we were not in play,” the allure of increasing its exposure in the college market and being able to expand its portfolio with projects on the retail side made sense for ANC’s board of directors.

Related: Lessons from ANC Sports, a Large Venue Integrator

“It opens doors at many universities we didn’t have a relationship with,” says Cifarelli, who started the company in 1997 with Alan Cohen. “We haven’t been winning as many opportunities as we’d like in that market. We want to be a global technology services company.”

Cifarelli and the ANC management team will report to Learfield COO Marc Jenkins, who oversees Learfield’s portfolio of extended business lines, which includes collegiate licensing and trademark management; ticketing; concessions and hospitality; as well as digital platforms and web solutions.

ANC has spearheaded the integration of new technology into sports venues with 18 NBA venue display systems, 36 collegiate installations, 14 Major League Baseball signage partners, among other stadium and arena deployments.

In the past two years, ANC has completed 47 projects, including video displays at Penn State University’s Beaver Stadium, The Citrus Bowl, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland (the largest arena center-hung scoreboard in the country) and Fulton Center, the largest digital media network in a single New York City transit hub.

Related: ANC Sports Unveils MLB’s Highest Pixel Density at Dodger Stadium

“We’re doing big things, but we weren’t necessarily seen as a big company,” says Cifarelli. “The opportunities in digital signage are becoming so big, so we felt we needed some size. It’s exciting to know we may have opportunities now we might not have had before.”

ANC has been exploring work outside North America and trickling into the high school market, says Cifarelli. The sale to Learfield makes ANC’s 180 employees “part of a company with an aggressive model that wants to grow the business,” he says.

Brown is excited to add ANC to the Learfield family.

“ANC fit perfectly into Learfield Sports’ portfolio,” he says. “ANC’s assets and quality work will provide us with new opportunities to drive revenue and enhance the fan experience for our collegiate partners. Part of our strategic plan is the pursuit of business opportunities that support or connect to our dominant position in the collegiate multi-media space.”

Brown sees ANC’s skills as ideal for what it does and believes ANC can enhance what Learfield has traditionally done for its customers.

Related: University of Phoenix Stadium Gets Teched Out for Super Bowl XLIX

“We believe college campuses are adopting the use of technology now more than ever before, including more advanced video display systems,” he says. “With ANC, Learfield is now in a position to provide our partners with the same event experience featured at professional venues. All of our school partners have either completed or are under way with enhancing their facilities from this aspect. While we’ve always been a part of those conversations, we now have the opportunity to help lead the dialogue.

“ANC’s turnkey technology service model will provide our partners with high-quality technology solutions for stadiums, arenas, and other venue locations. This add value will ultimately increase fan engagement during games and live events, while also creating new revenue opportunities through digital signage throughout our partners’ campuses,” says Brown.

Learfield will take its time on considering other acquisitions now that ANC is in the fold.

“We know ANC’s products and expertise are desired and needed by the nearly 100 collegiate partners we represent as our industry continues to evolve and the marketplace demands increased sophistication, especially in terms of technology,” he says. “We are continually evaluating our growth process and which companies and services would bring the most value to Learfield and our portfolio. We are learning a great deal about the ins and outs of this specific end of our industry from Jerry Cifarelli as well as new innovations and trends.”

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