ESI quantified the economic impact of the 15 University of North Carolina System Division of Intercollegiate Athletics Programs on the State of North Carolina. Collegiate athletics are an immense source of pride for these institutions and for the state as a whole. The aim of ESI’s research was to make sure it is understood that these athletics programs are also major generators of economic activity in communities throughout the state, and that these programs also contribute meaningful social impacts at a community, regional, and statewide level.
ESI estimated that direct and spillover impacts from UNC System Athletics produce $807 million in annual economic impact in North Carolina, supporting 6,340 jobs and $298 million in employee earnings. ESI also found the counties with the highest economic impact were Chatham, Durham and Orange counties and Wake County, all located in the northeast central region of North Carolina, generating $186 million and $169 million of impact, respectively. Pitt, Mecklenburg, Guildford, and Watauga were the following counties that produced a high economic impact well above $50 million each year.
Beyond the economic footprint described above, UNC System’s Athletics Programs also generate additional economic and social well-being for the state and communities throughout the state. Licensed merchandise, advertisement sales, increased alumni giving, and the growing number of student-athletes receiving “name, image, and likeness” payments all have positive implications for the state economy and local economies in the state. Furthermore, these athletics programs have a significant social influence, through community service, strong social cohesion among alumni, and the enhanced reputation of the state and its educational institutions. This too is part of the impact narrative for UNC System’s Athletics Programs.
In all these ways, UNC System Athletics delivers a substantial return on investment in the form of economic activity, jobs, and tax revenues generated within the local and state economy. It is also a flagship brand, ambassador, and community service provider within the state it represents, both on and off the field.