The University of Minnesota's Board of Regents expressed some reservations Friday about a proposal to allow the school to accept sponsorship and licensing deals from alcoholic beverage companies.
Current U policy prohibits such deals and bans the use of school trademarks in alcohol marketing. The proposed changes, presented at a meeting of the Regents' policy and governance committee, would permit those agreements and allow for production of alcoholic beverages by the university. Several Regents questioned whether the revenue from those deals — estimated at about $300,000 per year — is high enough to merit changing a longstanding policy.
The proposal could be voted on at the next Board of Regents meeting Feb. 11-12. University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel has recommended approval.
"There's value in the image the University of Minnesota has had," Regent Darrin Rosha said during the discussion. "I like the fact that we have a good image. $300,000 may not be enough to make that change.
"Certainly, any revenue we can generate is helpful. But at that number … it's kind of a tough sell for me right now."
Regents Randy Simonson and Michael Hsu also expressed concerns. Simonson noted that a Regents meeting Thursday included a presentation on student wellness, which said high-risk drinking remains a problem on U campuses. He cited worries about how the U's image would be affected by use of its logos in alcohol marketing, and whether students would be targeted by alcohol advertising at campus venues.
Hsu called $300,000 "a paltry sum." He urged more research into what Big Ten peer institutions are doing and asked for more details on what a new policy would allow.
"Unless there's more money involved, I'm not sure I support this," Hsu said.
Vice president of university relations Matt Kramer made the presentation to the Regents, outlining how sponsorships and licensing would work. He said he also was surprised by the relatively low revenue estimate, but added it "is what it is." Kramer explained the dollar value is limited because of the hyperlocal nature of college sports marketing, and $300,000 is what would be expected from a Big Ten market of this size.
To put the revenue figure in context, Kramer said Gophers athletics saw total earnings of $1.59 million from licensing deals in fiscal year 2020.
"$300,000 is not a large amount," he said. "It may be a large amount when compared to the potential of adding to our total licensing and sponsorships."
Among other Regents, Richard Beeson favored the changes, saying he does not think they will "increase the risk by any real amount." David McMillan said he has some concerns but is "notionally supportive" of the concept, while Mike Kenyanya said it deserves consideration, though he also has concerns about student drinking.