Go gamecock football marketing!

When the pastime of college football meets the institution of marketing, you can end up with a beautiful connection or a helmet-crashing sack. The results range from a cock-a-miniums and Steves-on-a-stick to enrollment increases and legislative support.

Next time you watch the ESPN pre-game show in your official Spurrier visor, check out who wants to cash in on your Gamecock devotion. It makes perfect sense — if you can extend fans’ unwavering support to your product, you never have to worry about customer loyalty again! Or so Applebee’s hopes.

The larger issue is how football helps a university market itself. Well-marketed football programs draw money, support and applicants to the school. As a j-school alumna, I would like to see USC harness the SEC spotlight for positive publicity and recruitment. Let’s get some camera-friendly events going, replace the drunken front-row revelers with friendly Carolina girls and feed the sports anchors some tidbits about the school itself.

I do have to give USC some credit for image awareness. We have a few recruitment commercials to run during games, and our team looks slick in those black jerseys. Perhaps most importantly, Spurrier’s visor never shows its wear and tear!

But we can do more. Our recruitment commercials should share our nationally ranked programs, showcase our research campus, highlight the beauty of the horseshoe and present our state-of-the-art gym. Our commercials must command the respect of the business community while arousing the interest of 17-year-olds. It’s a tall order, but we can do it.

We have some of today’s smartest ad/PR minds on our faculty, and our journalism program is consistently ranked among the top in the country. We just need to apply the marketing principles we espouse to the school itself. For instance, first-year journalism students learn all about the importance of cohesive branding, but I counted 11 distinct Gamecock logos during the course of the Georgia game! One USC Athletic Dept. official has a story about an airport hat salesman who refused to carry Gamecock ballcaps. The reason? Too many logos. We need to pick one Gamecock logo and stick with it. (Personally, I vote for the mean-looking talon-bearing midfield version).

A few years ago, journalism professor Dr. Sonya Duhé conducted a case study examining equally football-crazed LSU. Chancellor Mark Emmert used every public opportunity to link the school’s football prowess with its academic success. It worked. Instead of just rooting for the football team, Louisiana residents started to root for the school itself. They increased funding and sent more of their children to study at LSU.

USC fans, I give you a challenge. Let’s channel some of our competitive football drive toward promoting the school we love. Let’s tie our athletic victories to our academic ones. Let’s share the story of this great institution and make USC irresistible to the next generation of students, legislators and financial supporters. Go Gamecocks!

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