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.

virtual reality is the mid-major equalizer?

(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: Hannah Duncan, Nicole Kittay, Yong Hoon (Bryan) Lee, Jordan Novak, Austin Towns)



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



WHAT IF recruits could feel the experience of a Cinderella run in an empty arena? Mid-majors could use virtual reality to immerse recruits in the tournament when they visit the school at any time of the year. They could put on the VR goggles during tours and see what the March Madness run was like. They could hear fans cheering, see plays, and more. They could feel like they are already part of the team with a view from the bench. As they watch moments from the tournament in virtual reality, their interest in the school could increase dramatically. Even if they did not attend the March Madness games or they did not see highlights on TV, the experience would still feel real. The athletes would start to build brand awareness with the schools because each one would feel different. Each school has a different story, and each Cinderella tournament run is unique and memorable in its own way. Mid-majors could use virtual reality even without a tournament run, but a run would make it even more special. Virtual reality would be the closest thing to actually being on the team that the recruits could experience before they choose their school.

‘fun’ is a brand differentiator?

Be honest. Prior to the 2015-2016 season in which Monmouth basketball became known for their outrageous celebrations, you probably hadn’t thought much about the program (or perhaps since). But the majority of you (I hope) know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s because, that year, the national media fell in love with the gregarious personality of the team’s so-called ‘benchwarmers.’ SB Nation went so far as to write: “Monmouth’s over-the-top bench celebrations are the most fun thing about college basketball.” The crucial word in that headline, without a doubt, is ‘fun.’ I keep coming back to this, but lets breakdown the situation you’re all in. You’re working in sports, which at its essence is nothing more than a series of different games. Games. Games that are supposed to be fun, even though our society has transformed sports into little more than another money making enterprise. You’re also working with kids. Kids. As an eighteen-year-old college student, my personal mantra might as well have been fun over everything. The problem is, these young men and women are treated as professionals during the prime of their fun-having years. WHAT IF you let them have fun? WHAT IF your program was perceived to be the “most fun (insert sport) team in America”? Be that brand for them (athletes). Sadly, fun is a point of differentiation today. Take advantage.

branding is the key to recruiting?

I’ve been blessed to be in the business of football for over two decades & the common denominator I’ve found to continued & sustained success is through recruiting. Recruiting is not SOLELY the search for the biggest, strongest & fastest athletes available. True successful recruiting comes from EVALUATING those athletes & finding out who truly fits into your CULTURE. You need to choose them & they need to choose you because of a shared system of VALUES & GOALS.

Writing that last paragraph down is very EASY but APPLYING that systematically requires much more CONVICTION. The bigger, faster & stronger player will always be ATTRACTIVE but you must be COMMITTED to doing what’s right for your CULTURE. That’s WHY truly & accurately BRANDING your PROGRAM is so vital.

Clearly communicating your VISION of the CULTURE that exists. Honestly defining EXPECTATIONS (individually & collectively) for your program. Intensely MARKETING your BRAND that accurately portrays who your team truly is leads to recruiting success.

Recruits don’t choose WHAT you do to be successful but rather WHY you do them. You want people to choose your BRAND based on the reality of the situation which will then lead to long-term success for the INDIVIDUAL & for your CULTURE.

Follow any member of the @Tempe_FB “ONE of US” organization on social media and you will see a CULTURE “BUILT on TOUGHNESS” that does everything with:



you only played in big cities?

I know. Crazy right? But is it really? I have several favorite catch phrases that I spout off consistently in my work. One is: “Fish where the fish are.” By playing in a bigger city, you’re exposing your program to a much larger audience. A much larger pool of fish, if you will. It’s not rocket science. I’m not reinventing the wheel here. So why do so few teams do it? Take Oregon State baseball for example. A three-time national champion and no doubt a sexy program to a large audience. However, if the team remains in college-town Corvallis for every home game, the program is missing an opportunity to grow its fan base. Corvallis is full of existing fans. There are unlikely to be many potential additions to the fan base in their own back yard. However, Portland, the biggest city in the state, is a land full of fan opportunity. So why not bring your team to Portland on a more consistent basis? Why not fish where the fish are? WHAT IF you played half of your home games in the biggest city in your state?

your school ruled 7-on-7’s?

7-on-7 football is a recruiting goldmine. The best high school skill position players in the country play in 7-on-7 tournaments up to and immediately after the regular season ends. Not only that, every major recruiting site covers the top teams. Those are the same sites that potential college athletes and their parents frequent. Wouldn’t it be nice if those individuals consistently saw your program’s brand in and around these 7-on-7 stories? Wouldn’t it be nice if your program was the brand these athletes represented along with their hometown or region? The prized possession at these events comes in the form of bragging rights. To say that Southern California football players are better than those in South Florida, and vice versa. Chances are your program represents a region currently housing a 7-on-7 team. Imagine the brand loyalty a program would garner from these potential athletes if a program supported their passion and love for their hometown at these events. WHAT IF the 7-on-7 team in your area shared your name, logo and/or colors? WHAT IF you sponsored a team? WHAT IF you sponsored a practice field for your local team? WHAT IF your junior days became a 7-on-7 showcase?  Where there’s a rule, there’s a way.