Wednesday, October 24, 2012

College Basketball and the Universal Truth of Marketing

It's all about marketing.  At least that's what I've come to believe living in the second decade of the 21st Century.  It doesn't matter if it's a sexy brand like Apple, an industrial piping distributor, or a University - everyone needs solid marketing.  Most of us think about marketing in terms of selling a product.  In college basketball, that usually means tickets.  However, this is a great example of how it is actually so much more.  Those of you who know me, have gathered by now that I am a huge University of Arizona sports fan.  This is especially true of U of A basketball.  I regularly check in on the local headlines in Tucson to see what's going on with the team.  A few days ago, I was fascinated by one paragraph in the local AZ Star sports section.  The funny thing about it, is that this paragraph really had nothing to do with with any actual in-game activity.  Rather, it was about how Sean Miller, the head coach of the basketball team, approaches his role as a coach.

When he came to the U of A from Xavier, he brought with him a philosophy of hard work, smart ball handling, gritty defense, and, uh Marketing.  In fact, he has unofficially assumed the role of Chief Marketer along with his many other duties that involve actually coaching the players. The reason he takes marketing so seriously can be explained in terms of talent.

For him, the equation looks something like this: More ticket sales equal more fans equal more impressed recruits equal more big commitments equal more potential success in the future

Let's take a look at his tarket market, these are 18 year old kids, most of whom think of academics as an afterthought.  They choose a school based on the perceived ability to propel them to professional fame and fortune.  Most of them are being courted by programs all over the country (and sometimes internationally).  Recruiters need their message to resonate with the athlete   The spectacle of Arizona's Red and Blue scrimmage, bringing in Arizona Alumni like Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, Tom Tolbert, Andre Iguodala, etc. in a packed arena, are an attempt to show these kids the kind of success they can have.  Yeah, it sells tickets and pumps up the fans to buy more season ticket packages, but it's really a way to sell the recruit on the program.  Miller has even take to Twitter as a way to connect with the younger generation.  Many tweets, you'll notice, have an angle.  These are carefully planned messages designed to attract positive attention to the program.  

Despite the fact that the Arizona program has been down (which is a relative statement for fans with high expectations at the U of A) for several years, Miller has managed to recruit nation-leading talent to the program - lead, in part, by the Marketing effort.  He's convincing them that it's not just a basketball program, but a family and a way of life.  He's selling them a lifestyle.  Well, I for one hope that Miller's "Gold Standard" (more branding by the coach) continues to bring success to the team.  In today's uber-competitive college sports market, Coach Miller will need to utilize every tool possible, including the marketing, to get on top.  Bear Down coach!