follow the money
Posted by Abe Sauer on December 4, 2009 02:04 PM
American universities and colleges run an interesting branding game when it comes to their athletic programs. Ostensibly, a school's team is about school pride, one element of the school's overall brand. But many schools' brands are overwhelmed by their (intensely profitable) athletic programs which, in a vicious cycle, only strengthens these programs' influence on the schools' brands.
Those profits don't come from ticket sales. Schools that are sports powerhouses rake in millions a year from their trademarks. The University of Texas at Austin allows its trademark longhorn emblem on everything from pacifiers to Waterford crystal and from these deals collects millions of dollars in fees.
No sport overtakes more schools' brands than football. For the biggest, most successful schools, there are millions more to be made in national television contacts, which introduces the school's brand to millions more who will associate that brand with the school's athletic program.
Florida. Notre Dame. University of Southern California (USC). Ohio State. These schools' widely-known names instantly evoke athletics, not education. Indeed, Notre Dame recently fired its high profile football coach after years of poor performance risked deteriorating the onetime gridiron powerhouse's brand. As the new coach said, "We need football to be good. I want football to be good."
This weekend, Texas plays Nebraska for the Big 12 division title. Should Texas win, it may travel to another national championship game. The last time the Longhorns won the national title (the 2005 season), the university collected over $8 million in royalties from trademark licensing. What's more, that win reinforced the school's brand as a football powerhouse first, a place of higher learning second. (Or maybe even third -- the Longhorns basketball team has been quite good as of late.)