Study shows ASU, UA football programs need brand boost


The lifeblood of a college football program lies in the minds of high school players.  That’s the premise behind a recent marketing study.

And, based on survey results, the Arizona Pac-12 schools are both in need of a transfusion.

At least that appears to be the case for Arizona State and University of Arizona, based on a study conducted by Pick Six Previews.

ASU ranked 42nd out of the 65 Power 5 schools and Arizona tied for No. 46 on the list.  The results came from a survey of 224 high-school recruits who were queried about how they viewed potential college choices.

Both of Arizona’s programs were ranked below Kentucky (34th).  Yes, the basketball school.  Arizona was also edged out by Duke (44th).  Yes, the basketball school.

The accompanying article, How to Win In Recruiting, by Mike Nowoswiat and James Moss points out that teen athletes base their college selection on a wide criteria that includes things like the look of the uniforms, size and quality of the football stadium, the perceived prestige of both the program and its head coach, fan sentiment, style of play, and even academics!

“The net sum of all these influences becomes the program’s brand,” say the authors, “which is then evaluated by millions of high-school athletes.”  Those surveyed were asked to grade their interest in each program as if they were the No. 1 recruit in the country and had their pick of landing spots.

Needless to say, based on the survey results, neither the Sun Devils or Wildcats would have been in the running for that top recruit.

However, both schools are embarking on a new era in football as new head coaches have already begun preparations for the coming season.  Maybe these guys recognize that their programs could also use a new push in marketing.

Herm Edwards should be knowledgeable of the importance of marketing.  The new ASU coach has spent almost his entire career in the NFL, where marketing drives the league.   He spent a couple of decades in the NFL as a player and coach, but just a couple of years coaching in the college ranks – and that was almost 30 years ago.  And that’s cause for concern among his critics.

Edwards’ experience is with professional players.  What gets their attention is the size of the contract, not the design of the uniform and size of the weight room, as it is with the kids.  The marketing game plan is entirely different at the college level.

On the flip side of the coin, the Arizona Wildcats are getting a coach with plenty of college experience.  Kevin Sumlin has been coaching college football since 1989 when he began as a graduate assistant on the staff at Washington State.  His last 10 years have been spent as a head coach.

He’s also recognized as one of the better recruiters in the country.  He pulled in top-15 recruiting classes during his final three years as head coach at Texas A&M.

The Aggies, by the way, are ranked No. 24 on the Pick Six branding list.  Maybe Sumlin can help the Wildcats climb the ladder, too.

But for Sumlin and Edwards, it all starts at the same place.  They need to begin winning games, lots of them, and pull off  some big upsets along the way.  And then be able to win on a continuing basis, season after season.

It’s amazing what a few years of doing that can do for your brand.