It’s become something of an off-season tradition for me to criticize the Athletic Department’s marketing campaign (or lack thereof) each spring. This year, instead of being negative, I’d rather point out some positive examples of what better athletic marketing might look like, and what the AD has done recently to improve their marketing effort. Since this is a very football-focused blog, most of the suggestions will relate directly to football, but can be easily applied to just about any sport, revenue-generating or non-.
The current trend in Athletic Departments is for football and basketball teams to have their own websites, separate from a general athletics website. Even hotter still os for the coach himself to be the face of such a website, a la Mack Brown. Such sites have several uses, not the least of which is augmenting recruiting efforts. Minnesota’s sites for Tim Brewster (with the ever-so-subtle URL “Play4Brew.com”) and Tubby Smith are excellent examples of such uses. The over-stimulating flash might be a little much, unless it’s an effort to replicate the GOFIGHTWIN aspect of Brewster’s personality, but the emphasis on attractive presentation is duly noted nonetheless. PeteCarroll.com is predictably one of the best coaching websites, because he’s just an awesome dude, and everything he touches turns brotastic. His use goes beyond assisting a recruiting effort, and even gives coverage of the team’s own recruiting on Signing Day.
Even high-profile coordinators, like Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster, can use their own websites as promotional and recruiting tools. Quickly: Check if GERG.com is available! Michigan doesn’t necessarily need to go quite that far, but having dedicated websites for Football and Basketball, featuring their respective coaching staffs, and separate from the hideous MGoBlue.com design, can only help the program.
Of course, no discussion of coach visibility would be complete without a discussion of Twitter. Rodriguez (@UM_CoachRod) was one of the earliest adopters among the coaching ranks, which is very positive. He won’t be quite as bro-tastic as Pete Carroll (“Rocking out to don henley’s “boys of summer” right now… What a great song!!”), or as obnoxious and moronic as Tim Brewster (“WINNING ON AND OFF THE FIELD EACH AND EVERY DAY IS WHAT CREATES A CHAMPION!”), but exhausting any potential outlet is necessary in today’s media environment.
I’ve harped on this before, not in terms of “Michigan needs better facilities,” but definitely in the sense that Michigan needs to market better what they do have. Of course, as Oregon and Texas have shown, “If you build it, they [ESPN] will come,” but if Michigan had a website that would better show off what are inarguably some of the best facilities in the country, it would generate some positive buzz. Top football recruit Marcus Lattimore is aware Michigan has good facilities:
“We have the same offensive system that Michigan has,” he stated. “I have seen their great facilities up there already on their website. “
Think how much more impressed he might be if the website was designed to better show off the facilities than it currently is.
The sadly-defunct razorbackfacilities.com has been replaced by a (far inferior) inline facilities section on Arkansas’s main athletics website, but their display is still far more impressive than Michigan’s. With interactive panoramic views of every building on their athletic campus, the Razorbacks know how to flaunt what they’ve got. Merging their “Shock and Awe” tactic with Michigan’s “Just the Facts, Ma’am” approach and integrating good web design could form one of the best facilities sites on the internet (Texas’s implementation is a good example of the right direction to head, but could be more interactive).
Of course, the excuse of “Blerg too much construction blerg” can be used as a reason not to have a more impresive facilities website. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to show off how much Michigan cares about improving the facilities, and show status updates, along with live images (sadly, almost nobody knows about these) of the progress on Michigan Stadium.
This ties in with the facilities argument above, but welcoming the media is an important part of marketing the program. Perhaps more important, is having worthwhile events, people, etc. Daily writer Andy Reid agrees, but dude, you’re in position (perhaps better than anyone) to see what the Athletic Department is doing to make the spring game worthwhile, yet you completely ignore all these steps? Like, welcome to being the new Future Drew Sharp, idiot. Better, yet, you could even read the title of “UM adds activities to Spring Game” and realize that your column is complete crap.
Now, for the actual facts (something Reid has no time for, obviously). This area is one in which the program has probably made the most strides since Rodriguez has taken the helm:
- The AD has crafted a video to hype the spring game, which is certainly more than they’ve done in the past.
- The spring game will return to Michigan Stadium for part of the Spring Sports Weekend, along with Baseball, Softball, and other non-revenue sports contests.
- The Stadium Locker rooms will be open to the public before the practice, and Athletic Department officials will be giving guided tours of the new premium seating.
- The Wolverines will honor those Michigan Men who participated in the Super Bowl. Lamarr Woodley and Larry Foote have already committed to attending the event, and others (such as Steve Breaston and Gabe Watson) are expected to follow suit.
- Along the same vein, an alumni flag football game will be played in Michigan Stadium the day of the game, with commitments from Gary Moeller (who had been something of a persona non grata around the Michigan AD until recently), Jerry Hanlon, Rick Leach, Anthony Thomas, and Derrick Walker already.
Allow me to make one more suggestion: Do This. Please. I’d be surprised if Bill Martin and Rich Rodriguez didn’t invite live coverage, or at least a remote “GameDay” set from BTN or even the real thing from ESPN. These exciting changes, along with Rich’s stated goal of breaking Alabama’s Spring Game attendance record, lead me to believe, for the first time since I’ve been blogging about Michigan sports, that the marketing of UM athletics is headed in the right direction, at least in one way.