Where is the real money in college athletics? Ticket sales? Booster club contributions? No way.
As Mel Brooks reminded us in his 1987 science-fiction comedy SPACEBALLS, the money is is the merchandising.
When you license a product that promotes your brand, you want to: 1) have control over your brand image's or logo's use to make sure that the product doesn't dilute your brand's reputation, 2) make sure it positively promotes your brand or at least evokes positive feelings about your brand from the consumer who has become a de facto
brand ambassador, and 3) ensure it is financially beneficial to your brand. That's where the windfall is in college athletics (that and broadcast rights), so gearing up for the 2013 college football season, Athlon Sports released its list of best and worst logos in college football
How accurate were they in understanding the collegiate branded consumer market? Did they score a touchdown with their list, or was it more like a wide-right field goal attempt? Let's take a quick look.
The number two "Best" logo goes to Clemson, according to the list. "There are tons of Tigers, Wildcats and Bulldogs in college sports but none use their mascot quite like Clemson. The Tiger Paw print is synonymous with Clemson athletics and is utterly simple but still edgy and creative."
Number 3 in the "Worst" category (and frankly, we disagree completely) goes to the University of South Carolina where Athlon's team says, "It’s not the chicken, it’s the 'C.' A tweak to the hard inner angles and this logo is no longer in the bottom 5."
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though.
Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) is the company responsible for licensing "200 of the nation’s top colleges, universities, bowl games, athletic conferences, the Heisman Trophy, and the NCAA," and the company is responsible for nearly "80% of the $4.6 billion retail market for collegiate licensed merchandise." That's a big market.
According to CLC's rankings of the 75 top-selling colleges of last year, the Tigers roar in at number 24, while the Gamecocks crow at number 18.
It looks like the Athlon folks flubbed that kick...at least in terms of knowing what audiences prefer. That also goes to show how important it is to both understand your brand and your audience. These are marketing activities Carolina and Clemson understand and implement exceptionally well, and taking a page from their branding playbooks might be a smart thing for other marketers to do, also.