TPG signs deal with OVAC

MAKING IT OFFICIAL — The OVAC and TPG signed a 10-year marketing contract after TPG acquired Scholastic Sports Marketing, which had previously handled the OVAC’s marketing. From left are OVAC Treasurer Tom Rataiczak, TPG Executive Vice President and founder of SSM James Companion, TPG representative Jason McClelland, Beth Johnson of TPG and OVAC Executive Director Dirk DeCoy. -Seth Staskey

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — During the last 15 years, Scholastic Sports Marketing has helped to take the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference to a different level.

So, when Scholastic Sports Marketing co-founder James Companion was approached about selling his business to the Teall Properties Group, which is a branch of Teall Capital that was founded by Ben Sutton, who oversaw the rapid rise of IMG College, which is the marketing arm of nearly every major college in the country, he had to make sure of one thing before agreeing to any deal.

Companion, who is a graduate of Linsly and a member of the OVAC Hall of Fame, didn’t want the OVAC and the Ohio Valley to be lost in the shuffle.

“The very first thing that I made sure of before I did this was that we would take care of the OVAC,” Companion said.

TPG held up its end of the bargain and recently signed a new 10-year contract with the OVAC. That is the first high school conference the group agreed to terms with.

“The OVAC was the first with SSM and it’s the first with TPG,” Companion said. “The OVAC means everything to me and I am going to do everything in my power to make sure it’s well taken care of.”

According to a press release, which was distributed at a news conference held Tuesday at Belmont College, TPG will work with the OVAC to “develop business relationships to benefit the conference, it’s student-athletes and member schools.”

All current OVAC partnerships carry over to the new contract.

“This is going to open up a lot of doors for us outside of the valley,” OVAC Executive Director Dirk DeCoy said. “It’s going to bring a lot of exposure to the OVAC outside of the valley as well as inside of the valley. The conference is a big area and this will allow us to have more feet on the ground to knock on doors and ask people for their support.”

It was really by sheer accident that a deal was struck between SSM and TPG. Companion landed a meeting with Sutton and was looking forward to the chance to simply pick his brain about how to continue to become better and more effective.

“I wanted to pick his brain and get ideas on how to scale and grow the company from being with just a couple of organizations into being with several,” Companion said.

From there, it kind of took off.

Sutton expressed to Companion his desire to try to become more involved with high school sports marketing.

“He said he had been thinking about it and then said, ‘I’d like to have a head start, so how about we work together?” Companion said. “He then went on to explain the resources, industry know- how and the conversations got a little bit more serious. It became clear, during the course of several meetings, that this was the way to go and merge the companies.”

During his time working with the OVAC, Companion also has been able to strike marketing and sponsorship deals for individual schools for projects within their districts like scoreboards at football stadiums or in their gymnasiums.

Regardless of the change in name, Companion indicated those types of opportunities will remain for area schools. Actually, they could be enhanced.

“We can do more and do it better,” Companion said. “A lot of what I did I felt like I had one arm tied behind my back because of limited resources. Now, we’ll have more people power and feel like we can do more of that.”

On top of their work with high schools and conferences, Companion indicated the Teall Properties Group will be looking to branch out and work with state associations. They’ve already inked a deal with Rhode Island and they’re “talking to several others in New England.”

“The idea is a strength in numbers approach because the more high school groups we can work with, the more attractive we are to regional and national sponsors, so it generates more revenue that we can distribute to our partners,” Companion said.

DeCoy indicated that the OVAC and TPG are still “strategizing” and results of the newly formed partnership will be realized “soon.”

“We’re not going into this blindly,” DeCoy said. “We’re going to have a method to our madness with a strategy put together.

“We’re going to have target markets and certain companies we want to target and speak with. Plus, we need to continue to build up our inventory of what we have to offer as well. I’d say look for something in the third quarter.”


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