[Ed.: “I Have An Idea…” is a series written for College AD by the author of Brands Win Championships, Jeremy Darlow.]
“Show me the money!” – Rod Tidwell
You’re not paying your marketing talent enough. You might think you are, but you’re not. Don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. No one is paying enough. Athletic departments and universities are just scratching the surface on brand marketing. What it means and what it can do for the success of a program. What value it adds and where to start. Because we’re in the early phases of what really is a shift in thinking, we’re also not seeing the top talent in the industry valued appropriately. That leads to athletic directors at the associate level bouncing around from school to school to move up. It’s no different than any other industry. And like every other industry, universities are letting talent slip through their fingers, only to regret it later when that individual goes onto to do great things.
One thing I’ve seen throughout my career is the underestimating of brand marketing and brand marketers in general. Whether they admit it or come out and say it, just about everyone in the office believes they can develop a better commercial than you. A better print ad. A better social media post. Marketing is typically not seen as a science or an art, as engineering and design are. There’s less tangible “skill” to judge, which makes everyone an armchair marketer.
I can live with that. But you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t allow those around you to devalue the importance of your marketing staff. If your Twitter account gets more engagement then the rest of your conference, despite the program it represents not holding up its part of the bargain, it’s not an accident. Look at the people running the account. If your stadium flawlessly executes a color out, even though your team is nowhere near the top of the league, it’s not luck. Look at the people managing the project.
And if you happen to be one of the lucky schools with a brand visionary on your staff, I don’t care how old they are, if they have “it” – lock them up. Those individuals are part of a dying breed. Brand marketing isn’t as sexy as it once was. Today every young professional with dreams of being in “marketing” seems to gravitate first to social media. The problem is, without a brand strategy, a community manager is doing nothing more than trying to sustain 12 months of small talk. At the end of which, neither party is satisfied.
Brand marketers define the brand’s voice, tone and visual identity. Brand marketers define a brand’s position within an industry, a position that ultimately drives everything and anything to do with the brand, including social media. The head of your brand marketing department is as valuable to your team as a head coach is to his or hers. These are the individuals setting the strategy, making the tough decisions and ultimately coaching up the rest of the team. A strong brand manager will lift everyone on your staff and ultimately your brand overall.
That is, if you pay them enough to stay.
Jeremy Darlow is a brand marketing professional who, during his time at adidas, has worked with schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, and UCLA, and athletes like Jimmy Graham, Dwight Howard, and Lionel Messi. He works to help NCAA athletic programs and athletes build and elevate their brands to elite levels.