[Ed.: “I Have An Idea…” is a series written for College AD by the author of Brands Win Championships, Jeremy Darlow.]
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
So your competition is significantly outspending you, but you’ve yet to find a way to compete with their resources. You haven’t pitched for the dollars that could give you a leg up, make you smarter, put you in position to compete at the highest level. You’re unwilling to make significant changes to the way you allocate your budget, despite little program progression in recent years. Instead, as is typical in most industry, you’re resigned to second, third or fourth place.
Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you do want to win, you’re just scared that if you do garner the equivalent budget, the pressure to win increases to a level you’re not ready for. There are positives and negatives to both sides. On the one hand, a big budget means a higher ceiling and the ability to create national conversations around your brand. On the other hand, with a bigger budget comes increased expectations to win. Reversely, a small budget brings with it lesser expectations and often times your constituents are happy if you meet said expectations with the occasional “exceeds” review. On the down side, your ceiling is of course much, much lower. Meaning your program’s potential is much, much lower; which means, your chances of building that differentiated resume that ultimately lands you the higher paying, higher profile job, is much, much lower.
In life you have to take risks in order to reap the biggest rewards. In business you have to spend money to make money. Yet schools continue to fall back to the old guard of budget planning. There are dollars to be allocated to marketing. I’ve seen them at every school. It’s just a matter of where to find them. The question is are you being critical with the dollars as they are currently being spent? For those of you whose programs are not traditionally at the top of your conference, yet haven’t taken a budget risk or found ways to increase your returns, I ask why not? What do you have to lose…especially if you’re already losing? Are you investing in consultation from experts in the brand-marketing field or are you expecting to improve without outside points of view? Are you finding ways to invest in paid media, or are you expecting your social following to grow organically, even if your team is struggling on the field or court? Are you investing in experiential advancements to your home games or are you thinking, despite your program’s struggles, that your fans will leave the comfort of their own homes to watch your team live? Why? Because they’re so loyal? I don’t think so.
Too often I’ve listened to administrators and coaches tell me they want to win, yet the changes that they are willing to make are nothing more than what can be described as “safe.” Worse yet, few people seem to be willing to invest in marketing in order to help turn things around. If you’re not willing to invest in marketing, how do you expect your marketing team to help you? It’s the athletics’ version of the definition of insanity. The old way of thinking doesn’t work any longer.
If you want to attract better players, build a stronger brand.
If you want to build a stronger brand, start investing in marketing.
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.