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Buffaloes, Boulder & Blenders: How Deion Sanders’ Midas Touch Created the Coach Prime Economy

Last Updated: September 26, 2023
The Prime Effect is real! From ratings records to Prime sunglasses to Buffs merch milestones, let’s explore the massive business impact of Deion Sanders at Colorado.

Deion Sanders has had success just about everywhere he’s been.

Whether that’s back in his playing days as a two-sport athlete, bouncing around from the gridiron to the ballpark to great effect, or the early returns from his coaching career in which he won 30 of his first 36 games, Prime Time has always risen to the occasion. In doing so, he’s also routinely lifted those around him. This goes beyond athletes and fans, too, extending directly to brand partners he’s worked with and even the actual communities he’s lived in.

That’s what’s happening right now in Boulder, as everything the Colorado Buffaloes head coach touches is increasingly turning to gold, whether it’s Black and Gold merch, Blenders’ signature Prime sunglasses, or the explosive television ratings and public fanfare around every game.

So, how much of an actual impact has Deion Sanders had on, well, just about everything? From Boardroom breaks down the Coach Prime Economy.

Buffaloes

Starting with the obvious, the Colorado football program hasn’t had this kind of buzz surrounding it … maybe ever? That much is obvious based on just how hard Folsom Field was rocking for the Buffaloes’ thrilling double-overtime win over in-state rival Colorado State on Sept. 16. The bar was admittedly pretty low for Sanders and Co., with the program having just won a single game in 2022, but surpassing that in the first two matchups of the season has to feel pretty good for the athletic department.

But the buzz has been palpable since before Week 1. Before the season’s start, the school sold a record number of tickets, selling nearly 22,500 season tickets, selling out in April for the first time in 27 years. That doesn’t include the 11,600 student sports packages that were sold and populate the student section every week.

Not only that, but the hype has every chance to sustain itself throughout the campaign. The Colorado program announced earlier this week that it had already sold out the final home game of the season against Arizona, marking the first time the Buffs have ever sold out their full home slate for an entire season. When history is being made on the field, it turns out the fans want to watch it unfold, making history of their own in the stands.

And it’s not only the fans, as the media attention garnered since Sanders’ arrival has grown to a level the program has never seen before. CU Boulder spokesperson Steve Hurlbert told the Daily Camera the recent national exposure has been “invaluable.” Consider the following:

  • A University report estimates the equivalent ad value of the earned media coverage since the season started is $90.55 million.
  • The program issued a record 848 media credentials for Week 2 vs. Nebraska (likely to be broken for USC next week).
  • The game against CSU garnered 9.3 million viewers on ESPN, the company’s fifth most-watched college football game on record and the most-watched late-window game ever.
  • The Nebraska game was the most-watched Pac-12 regular season game in Fox history and the 10th most-watched regular season college football game ever broadcast on Fox.

Whether you’re a fan, a media member, or just genuinely curious, the numbers don’t lie — all eyes are on Mr. Sanders and the Buffaloes.

Of course, this doesn’t even mention team merchandise sales. Keep scrolling!

Boulder

Visit Boulder — the Convention and Visitors Bureau for the town — conducted an economic impact study for the weekend of Colorado’s game against Nebraska on Sept. 9, projecting the game brought in an estimated total of $17 million in “combined direct and indirect impacts to the area.”

“What many news reporters miss in their reporting is that the economic calculator estimates both the direct and indirect impacts,” Visit Boulder CEO Charlene Hoffman told Boardroom. “The direct economic impact is comprised of direct spending/business sales with visitors, organizer, and media/sponsors for lodging, transportation, F&B, retail, and recreation. The indirect/induced impact is the additional spending by local businesses and by employees of local businesses through generated income. It also includes the spending that leaks outside of the local economy due to the purchase of goods, services, and raw materials by locals and event organizers.”

Of the total projected $17 million, $11 million was in direct impacts, while the remaining $6 million came via indirect spending. These calculations are generated through an industry tool developed by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company, which factors visitor spending behaviors by event type and includes a competitive set of destinations with similar populations and economic environments. More than 300 other cities use this tool, and it has calculated estimates for 500,000+ events nationwide.

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And to be clear, this isn’t simply just within Boulder borders, as this impact study takes into account the entire region as well. Simply put, Boulder alone doesn’t have the hotel room capacity to lodge all the visitors that have been rolling through town for Sanders and Colorado Football.

“Our report shows the estimated room demand is 13,825 hotel rooms based on 26,550 attendees,” Hoffman said.

A full revenue report for the month of September is expected to be released by Visit Boulder in the coming weeks, but for now, the calculations only produced numbers from the game against Nebraska. By using the same method, Hoffman says the game against Colorado State last weekend should be up 70% compared to the program’s home game against Air Force during the same weekend slot in 2022.

Let’s not be surprised when numbers like this are released for every Colorado home game this season.

Blenders

One of the biggest beneficiaries of Sanders’ arrival in Boulder? Blenders, whose signature Prime sunglasses are the product of an official partnership with the Colorado head coach.

It’s no secret that no matter what kind of outfit Sanders decides to rock at any given practice or game, it’s likely he’s also sporting a pair of his trademark mirror-lensed sunglasses. They’ve become so popular that his sunglasses — and hat collection — became a topic of discussion ahead of the Buffaloes’ rivalry win over Colorado State, and Blenders reaped the rewards.

Seeing where the wind was blowing, Blenders decided to make a proper line of Coach Prime sunglasses that don’t officially go on sale until Oct. 12. That hasn’t stopped roughly 70,000 pairs being sold on a pre-order basis — Blenders Founder and CEO Chase Fisher told Front Office Sports they originally only planned on selling 16,000.

@boardroom_ A prime example of Coach Prime’s ability to seize a prime opportunity. #deionsanders #gobuffs #collegefootball #coachprime ♬ original sound – Boardroom

Priced at $67 a pair, quick math suggests that these Prime sunglasses will generate roughly $4.5 million in revenue from the jump, and while the company hasn’t confirmed that estimated figure, Sanders claimed previously that sales had passed $1.5 million. Fisher later confirmed to FOS that the real number is “much more significant.

Zooming out further, Sanders is impacting more than just Blenders sales. The school said September has been the biggest month ever for the athletics department online team store, with nearly a week and a half to spare. The second-best month? December 2022 — the month Sanders was hired. In fact, the 10 best days in terms of the highest sales in the history of the online team store have taken place since Deion joined up.

Additional stats to help illustrate the Prime Effect:

  • Sales at Colorado athletics’ official online store increased by 505% in December after Coach Prime was hired last year.
  • In 2023, the team store revenue is pacing 892% ahead of 2022 and 153% ahead of 2021.
  • Sales are up 2,544% in the month of September, to date, compared to last year at this time.

Many assumed it was a whole lot of shtick; plenty surely still do. There are differing opinions on whether what Deion Sanders has done in Boulder is good or bad for college football in the long term, and that won’t be settled with one game, or even one season. For now, however, one thing is certain: Thanks to Deion’s Midas touch, the Prime Effect has evolved into a full-blown Prime Economy.

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About The Author
Griffin Adams
Griffin Adams
Griffin Adams is an Editor at Boardroom. He's had previous stints with The Athletic and Catena Media, and has also seen his work appear in publications such as USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and MLB.com. A University of Utah graduate, he can be seen obnoxiously cheering on the Utes on Saturdays and is known to Trust The Process as a loyal Philadelphia 76ers fan.