you created your own march madness?

(This concept comes from Patrick Walsh’s Sports Management class at the University of Syracuse. The students who presented this idea as part of the “Brand Food University” Program are: Matt Bustillo, Drew Derda, Nick Lowenthal, Edan Michener, Max Santos)



How can a mid-major leverage a tournament run to build brand awareness amongst high school basketball players?



A March Madness Cinderella run wraps up every member of a sports audience in its excitement – players, students, and fans of an underdog team. The immense visibility and coverage an unknown team receives is a perfect launching pad for improvements to their program.

A team that has a surprising run should create a showcase tournament during Spring Break for high school sophomores and juniors. This event would appear to be like the Jordan Brand Classic, The Under Armour Elite 22, or McDonald’s All-American Game. College campuses can host these events and increase their image by positioning themselves next to these top-tier recruits. By leveraging their March Madness success, high school recruits will be more inclined to visit these mid-major schools and play in their gyms and campuses. It also provides them the chance to become more familiar with the school and take it into consideration for their commitment. For their own futures, high schoolers will also be incentivized to participate to increase their desirability to college scouts.

An event like this would drive attention from top recruits, basketball fans, and locals of the area. It also keeps the school’s basketball program in conversation even after its Cinderella Run has ended.

team merchandising had a simple solution?

(This concept comes from Dave Meluni’s Sports Management class at the University of Syracuse. The students who presented this idea as part of the “Brand Food University” Program are: Connor Davis, Dean Vergos, Ben Lehrberger, Robbie Duggan, Chris Nolan, Christian Owens)



How can “Upset U” generate media coverage and drive sales using a single piece of merchandise launched at the NCAA tournament



Underdog U can generate and make national media coverage through one piece of clothing; team-themed bandanas. These bandanas will be worn by fans during basketball games and feature the team color scheme. The bandana will be effective because when the camera pans over to the student section or the general admission sections, the bandanas will be clearly visible whether the person wears the bandana across their forehead, across their necks, or its waved around like a flag. Another key component is that bandanas are not relatively popular among sporting events. It is not a typical piece of clothing fans wear to sporting events, it is an accessory. Therefore, the idea of wearing a bandana to a sporting event will hopefully be associated with Underdog U’s school if it catches on. Production of the bandanas is also very cheap as it’s simply a single piece of fabric that can be sold for much more than its production cost, therefore yielding a significant profit if marketed properly.

you went the cowboy way?

(This concept comes from Dave Meluni’s Sports Management class at the University of Syracuse. The students who presented this idea as part of the “Brand Food University” Program are:Ryan Dilts, Phillip Walz, Hongkwan Park, David Chow, Zach Adee, Spencer Frybergh)



How can “Upset U” generate media coverage and drive sales using a single piece of merchandise launched at the NCAA tournament



Our university, Underdog University, recently made the NCAA Tournament! The Underdog Desperadoes are located in a small town in Texas. Our concept idea is to sell yellow and black cowboy hats. These cowboy hats would resemble the one that our mascot, Danny the Desperado, wears. The popularity of cowboy hats in the region will get the local fans to buy into the idea to get it started. As the tournament progresses, the more people will see our team along with our fans. The bright yellow and black color scheme will draw the attention of viewers across the country as these colors are aesthetically pleasing. These cowboy hats will stand out when the fans are shown during the tournament games. Following each game, the “Hee Haw” chant between the fans and players along with the tipping of the cowboy hats by the fans will grab the attention of the media. The combination of these upsets, chants, the unique and bright color scheme, and the popularity of cowboy hats in the team’s area, will allow for Underdog University to generate and make national media coverage and drive sales.

message boards are your allies?

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

You’ll never be able to control message boards, as many of them are managed by fans in the form of admins and overrun by bleeding heart subscribers. But, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Message boards can be your best friend. Think of it as free market research. Befriend the admins of the boards you consider to be the most relevant in your community and partner with them. The reason is simple: you’re catering to fans, and fans are the lifeblood of your program. The more you know about them, the more likely you are to keep them happy. Message boards offer you a free focus group and a finger on the pulse of your fan base at any given moment. All you have to do is plug in that URL and start reading.

Consider this. If you’re looking to gauge fan response to a new, unreleased, uniform idea, your friends the forum admins can test the waters for you without giving away the farm. And they’ll do it just in time for you to react and tweak designs.

Similarly, if you have a new brand campaign you’re trying to make headway with among fans, create message board signatures (the banners you often see underneath posts of particular individuals) that the admins can offer up to their community exclusively. In a matter of days, your new campaign will be all over the internet, thanks to your decision to seed the art to your most rabid fan base.

I know this can work because as a die-hard Oregon State University fan and alum, I once volunteered my time with a noteworthy Beaver board and created school-specific signatures for the community. The response was great, and still to this day I see posts that include a signature I designed.

Message boards are your friends, not your foes, as many would assume. These boards are a resource to you. Market research is expensive; message boards are free. Use them.

you introduced the next “turnover chain”? (part 2 of 2)

Now that you’re on board with the idea of rewarding your fans, WHAT IF the reward actually built the brand? Rather than showering the crowd with free taco coupons (which does nothing for your brand), WHAT IF everyone walked away with car decals featuring your team’s logo on them instead? People love free swag and many will ultimately put the sticker on their car, which is your goal. A fully-branded parting gift to remember their experience in your stadium by. Once again, everyone wins. The fans get a free decal and memory, while the brand earns a new mobile billboard.

you introduced the next “turnover chain”? (part 1 of 2)

Rewarding on-field performance with symbols like the now infamous “Turnover Chain” took the sports marketing world by storm in 2017-2018, but WHAT IF you made 2018-2019 about the fans? Rather than rushing out to imitate the Hurricanes with a forced version of your own, WHAT IF you reinvented the concept and as a result, brought the media frenzy that surrounded South Beach for a year, to your town? Here’s how: there are moments in sports where the fans play a key role. Football has embraced the crowd’s function in the sport perhaps better than anyone. The louder the crowd, the harder it is for the opposing team to conduct their offense. The louder the crowd, the more likely the other team’s players are to move early, triggering a false start flag. And that’s where you come in. WHAT IF you rewarded your fans every time the other team moved early? In basketball, the crowd is often rewarded with free tacos when the team reaches 100 points. Simple execution. WHAT IF you took that concept to the field, only this time rewarding the crowd for their efforts in helping the team win. The louder the crowd, the more flags. The more flags, the more tacos. Everyone wins.