Christine Plonsky

Chevrolet announced its plan Sept. 4 to release a UT-edition Silverado in October as a part of their long-standing partnership with UT Athletics.

Chevrolet’s product specialist Ben Reinke said Chevy wanted to make a special truck for Longhorn fans. 

“The Chevy Silverado is a major part of Texas culture,” Reinke said. “The truck is not only popular among UT students and coaches but also embodies Texas as a whole.”

The University has over 20 corporate media and promotional sponsors, who all advertise heavily at UT sporting events. Christine Plonsky, director of UT women’s athletics, said Chevy is considered an integrated partner of Texas Athletics and is proving to be one of UT’s most significant sponsors. 

Plonsky said she thinks Chevy’s new release of the sunset orange metallic Silverado could help to boost Chevy’s image within the University community. 

“It takes a high level of commitment for a business to be able to call itself an ‘official sponsor,’” Plonsky said. “These partnerships are typically worth up to six or seven figures. Chevrolet has stepped up significantly with wanting to be a part of Texas athletics. They know the state of Texas is a huge market for this particular product.”

According to Plonsky, UT’s marketing team and fan base will play a large role in marketing the truck because of the collaborative nature of Chevy’s relationship with Texas athletics.

“We’re very much a part of these pitches,” Plonsky said. “We approve all the artwork you see, right down to the color. It’s a collaborative partnership. Every single dollar counts for us, and we’re very grateful for them believing in our enterprise and supporting Longhorn sports.”

Reinke said he believes Chevrolet gets just as much publicity from the partnership.

“We get our name out there to all the students, coaches and fans,” Reinke said. “When they see our brand at games and tailgating events, we’re building up our reputation.”

Jaclyn Kachelmeyer, international relations and Plan II senior and director of UT’s Campus Environmental Center, said the Silverado’s release could serve as a platform for initiating a campus-wide conversation on how UT markets itself within Austin. 

“It would be nice to see UT move towards a more sustainable vehicle,” Kachelmeyer said. “[The vehicle’s release] is a great opportunity to talk about how we choose to market ourselves, and what sustainable things we invest in.”

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.”

The UT System Board of Regents gave UT President William Powers Jr. authority to renew and boost the contracts for men’s athletics director DeLoss Dodds and women’s athletic director Christine Plonsky on Thursday.

Dodds has led the UT athletics program for the past 30 years from a $4.8 million operation in 1981 to a $136 million operation in 2010-11. He was a key player in building the prestige of the Big 12 Conference since its inception in 1996 and in the next few years will oversee the new Longhorn Network, which could bring in $15 million for UT.

Powers will decide the details of the new contracts in consultation with certain regents, but the new contract will only require approval from Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

“The ball is in UT-Austin’s court right now,” said UT System spokesman Matt Flores.

Dodd’s contract currently pays him $675,000 including potential incentives, and Plonsky makes $325,000, including performance incentives.

Powers will negotiate the terms of Dodds’ and Plonsky’s contracts in consultation with Colleen McHugh, chairman of the board of regents, regent Robert Stillwell, chairman of the board’s academic affairs committee and regent Steven Hicks, the board’s athletic liaison. President Powers made recommendations during the board’s executive session, Hicks said.

Under Dodds, the Longhorns have earned 23 NCAA bowl berths, athletics programs have brought back 23 national championships and about 100 Big 12 and Southwestern Conference titles. The athletics department also brought in $6 million that went to UT’s academic core budget. Dodds has promoted the up-and-coming Longhorn television network for years.

The Texas Exes alumni association honored Dodds in October with the Distinguished Service Award, the most prestigious award the association can give to an individual who did not graduate from UT. Dodds graduated from Kansas State University in 1959. He later served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander before becoming athletics director at Kansas State University. He was hired as UT’s ninth athletic director in 1981.

Wyndam Smith, a 1964 UT alumnus who has attended all but one UT vs. Texas A&M game since 1950, said Dodds’ vision has boosted not only the Longhorn football program but all of UT athletics. Dodds has also overseen an expansion of the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, which now seats more than 100,000 people, and the construction of state-of-the-art training facilities, Smith said.

“He just promotes Texas sports from girls’ softball to the men’s football team; he’s done a heck of a job,” Smith said.