If you think high school sports are too slick, too big-time, or too professional, just wait. When this Ohio transplant has his way—and he will—they’re going to get slicker, bigger, and much more pro. Stephenson, the former president of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, founded Titus Sports Marketing in 2003. The company’s first major deal came a year later, when it sold naming rights for the Tyler Independent School District’s stadium to Trinity Mother Frances Health System for $1.92 million, the largest such contract for a high school ever. In September 2007 Titus also put together the Clash of Champions, a game televised on ESPNU between the best high school football team in Florida, Miami Northwestern, and the best in Texas, Southlake Carroll. Northwestern won the game (hyped as “the biggest game in the history of high school football”) 29—21, but the real winner may have been Stephenson.
Where did you get the idea for Titus?
I knew high schools were looking at ways of maximizing revenue. A lot of districts are looking to give their stadiums a face-lift—to add parking, double the concessions and restrooms, redo the field house. High schools are where colleges were fifteen years ago, and there’s a lot of lost advertising revenue because there’s nobody there to capture it. We’re pioneers. We work with the school district; we sell the assets that they direct us to sell.
The statement of purpose on your Web site reads, “Titus is the answer for corporations in need of building their market share by penetrating the hard-to-reach 12-24 demographic whose nucleus resides in high schools …” Should high schools be a target for corporations?
We’re no different from Coca-Cola or Pepsi, which ten years ago came into high school sports. What happened when those contracts were signed was you had a superintendent or an educator negotiating a marketing contract. We say, “You’re educators. Our skill is in marketing.” We come into a school district just as legal counsel is hired to represent them. We’re servants to the district.
You ran into opposition in Katy this past November.