College sports is big business with a fan base just as big. The NCAA says it generated nearly $900 million in revenues during the 2011-12 season (the most recent figures released). Farm equipment manufacturers like Kioti and Mahindra are tapping into this trend to reach new customers.

Kioti recently announced its partnership with Raycom Sports, a sports management and marketing firm that has digital and syndicated television rights for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s ACC men’s basketball and football telecasts through 2023. A mobile app, the ACC QB Challenge is part of the partnership, where fans have a chance to win a Kioti CS2410 tractor.

This past spring, Mahindra announced its partnership with the Yahoo Sports Radio’s network of more than 500 radio station affiliates. As part of the partnershipMahindra sponsored the Super Bowl XLIX and March Madness collegiate basketball events. A related promotion included presenting a first responder with a Mahindra eMax 22 HST tractor with a front-end loader.

Dealers don’t need to be bystanders in these national marketing campaigns — or even just settle for spillover brand awareness. If your manufacturers are investing in these strategies, then you should be, too. Demographic statistics validate that this is a good target market. For instance, Nielsen data shows that 66% of the NCAA bowl game viewers are male and 30% are 35-54 and 44% are 55 and older.

Local high school sports are an obvious tie-in, but take the lead of manufacturers and find ways to market to university or community college sports teams. For instance, visit with their development (fundraising) directors or athletic directors to find out what they need and how you could help. Don’t be shy. Their jobs are to find partners, so they should welcome a call from a potential sponsor. Their suggestions for sponsorships might be high, but they’re also good at finding unique ways for sponsors to donate.

Take advantage of relationships you might already have with their grounds care department and get their ideas for promotional partnerships. They might refer you on to someone else and that’s a good thing. Keep going until you find someone on the other side who needs what you can offer.

Many of you are having great years, so this could be the time to make end-of-year monetary donations. Think long-term, not just a UTV for a raffle. For instance, could you be a high-level patron of one of the university’s own fundraising events and invite your friends and business associates to attend?

Or, consider a more direct marketing approach, such as advertising during college games or during college sports talk shows.

The goal is to be strategic at a local level with a strategy being pursued on a national level. You don’t need to settle for loaning a mower to the grounds crew and hope that will make an impact on future customers.