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The Lighter Side of PR Firm Valuation—A March Madness Analogy

By Rick Gould, Managing Partner, Gould+Partners

For those of you that are addicted to the NCAA College Basketball March Madness, The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece last week written by Andrew Beaton. Apparently the top college basketball teams have substantial value.

Ryan Brewner, assistant professor of finance at Indiana University, does for college basketball teams what I have done for public relations firms for over 20 years—tests and perfects methods used for valuation to the degree that it is a science.

He valued the college team as if it could be acquired as a pro team. Brewer analyzed each basketball program, revenues, salaries of coaches, arena, TV ratings according to ESPN data, expenses, growth projections and risk assessments. The model used is very different than for PR agencies. College basketball is a big business.

The 50th ranked college team in value, Virginia Tech, is worth $41.1 mill, more than 99.9% of the PR firms in North America.

The national champion, Duke, is ranked #9 in value at $181.7 mill. The runner up, Wisconsin, is ranked #5 in value at $221.7 mill. The team that went 38-0, Kentucky, until being eliminated by Wisconsin in the semifinals, is ranked #6 and valued at $213.3 Mill.

No team is even close to perennial March Madness top team, Louisville, valued at $367.4 mill, double that of Duke. Last year’s champion, UConn, is #13, valued at a paltry $111.9 mill. Villanova, also a perennial March Madness favorite, is valued at $46.5 mill. No Ivy League team made the top 50, and football dynasties Florida State, Texas, Penn State and Florida are all valued at under $60 mill.

The one X factor here is that college hoop players don’t get paid a salary. If they did, I wonder to what degree that would affect their value. Although the added salaries would decrease value, the ensuing controversy over the player salaries, salary caps, signing bonuses and perks would certainly add exposure to the college basketball program, which, in turn, would add to their value.

I will stick to valuing PR firms, they’re much less complex. 

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