September 13, 2011

Everything I Need to Know About Branding I Learned from College Football

Remember the adage everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten? Well let’s think about this in terms of branding; that sentence could easily translate to everything I need to know about branding I learned from college football.

As I’ve written about in a number of past posts creating a memorable brand experience and creating a strong brand loyalty are the hallmarks of a successful brand, and nowhere will you find a company or product that creates the undying passion and loyalty the way college football teams do.

Point-in-case: When I originally started to write a post tying branding and college football together I was going to list the top ten college football brands (admittedly determined by my own biased ranking system) but quickly decided this was a bad idea based on a number of things.

    Problem #1: The thought of ranking my favorite team (Go Gators!) at anything other than #1 made my skin crawl.

    Problem #2: SEC schools would undoubtedly take over the top five (heck the entire top ten would probably be SEC schools in my mind) because in addition to being a Florida fan I’m an SEC fan.

    Problem #3: Last but certainly not least, I knew that if I started ranking college teams a debate so heated would break out in the office that I feared our walls would come crashing down like goal posts of yesteryear.

So how do college football teams garner such strong brand experiences and loyalty? It’s because when it comes to branding, college football gets it. There is a painstaking attention to detail associated with a college football brand from making sure the correct Pantone color is used for every piece of equipment, apparel and brochure to guarantee consistency to nostalgic activities that create positive brand associations. These nostalgic activities can include a school’s unique tailgating traditions and pre-game ceremonies. Every detail is considered, and everything is branded.

But why would a school spend so much time, energy, and money to create these branded experiences? It’s simple. A school with a strong brand will continue to attract masses of new students each year (subsequently growing its brand’s reach every year), students then graduate, become alumni and alumni become donors to the school. Finally there is the revenue and brand impressions generated from trademark licensing. Schools like the University of Texas, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, etc. generate millions of dollars each year from licensing revenue alone. The number of impressions brands like these get each year from the sale of licensed apparel and equipment only furthers the awareness and loyalty for brands.

Having a strong brand in college football is more than winning games because even in recent slumps of some the greatest brands in college football their fans have remained true and passionate. It’s all about the experience and the passion the fans feel for their brand…I mean team.

So repeat after me: everything I need to know about branding I learned from college football.

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