Southwest now sponsors UT athletics and Texas Exes alumni association

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

The first UT football game this fall will not only feature a new starting quarterback but will also introduce a new six-figure sponsor to the UT community.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, whose CEO, Gary Kelly, is a UT alumnus, announced July 23 that it will sponsor all 20 official UT sports teams as well as the Texas Exes alumni association for the next five years. The sponsorship will be managed through multimedia marketing company IMG College, which coordinates all sponsorships for UT athletics.

Christine Plonsky, women’s athletics director, said the sponsorship involves a substantial six-figure per-year deal that will give Southwest a great deal of advertising opportunities. Plonsky did not reveal how much Southwest paid in the deal.

“The sponsorship involves cash and some services such as airline vouchers for travel and things like that,” Plonsky said. “The elements within the agreement will give exposure to Southwest through signage, video boards and other things.”

In the athletics department, Plonsky said the money from the sponsorship will support overall operations associated with each sports team.

“The dollars they pay IMG, which then go to the University, inevitably all go to support our operations here, which support our student athlete teams,” Plonsky said.

Tim Taliaferro, a spokesman for Texas Exes, said the sponsorship is smaller for the alumni association than it is for UT athletics, but still important for those who want to stay in touch with what goes on at the University.

“Texas Exes exists to champion the University and to keep people connected,” Taliaferro said.

Scott Willingham, vice president and general manager of Longhorn IMG Sports Marketing, the IMG division in charge of UT athletics marketing, said the sponsorship will be divided between the athletics department and Texas Exes according to the value of each group.

As the official airline sponsor, Southwest takes its place at the top level of sponsorship over any other airline that wishes to sponsor the University, Willingham said. He said other airlines wishing to advertise at UT can buy media time on radio or television.

“No other airline can be official,” he said.

An official sponsorship allows a corporation to use trademarks associated with the University, Willingham said.

“Official sponsors have certain assets,” Willingham said.

“Mainly they have the rights to use marks and logos. They also have the right to say that they’re official.”

Brad Hawkins, Southwest Airlines spokesman, said the decision to partner with the University was business-oriented, as well as positive for employees of the airline.

“There are lots of longhorns at Southwest for whom this was a very special deal,” Hawkins said. “But it was very much a business decision about aligning two brands that have a lot of value.”