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How Sports Marketing has changed College Football?


I have chosen to study the impact of sports marketing on college football for various reasons. The concept of sports marketing is relatively a new one and is growing day by day with the integration of better advanced services such as television, internet, mobile phone technology etc.

Many large multi-nationals are venturing into this area mainly because they see a huge scope. They realize that through sports marketing they can target a specific market and position their products accordingly. As people have become more involved in college day events, companies see the potential sports marketing. They feel they can easily reach their target market through this form of communication. The large number of college football teams available gives the companies a choice to sponsor those that it feels will help in its marketing campaign for a product (Association, 1996).

Furthermore, the growth in the number of players and teams available has made college

The relevant information has been found through various articles that are available online. This includes articles available on EBSCO HOST as well as those available on other sports websites. The articles on these websites discuss what activities are being undertaken by universities to market their games. It also discusses which

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universities are outsourcing their marketing activities to other sports marketing companies. These articles and online sources are helpful in finding all information that is relevant to the subject of the search paper.

Literature Review

Over the past years, due to the glistening and glamour of the players in football, sports marketing have become increasingly competitive (Evaluating NFL team blogs: The good, the bad, the nonexistent, 2008). Almost all large universities have an athletics department working to enhance their capabilities to train a good team. Since most universities have realized the potential of college football in terms of revenue generation, they are continuously involved in making sure that they have the best team (Dees, Bennett, & Villegas, 2008).

It is sports marketing and its potential in terms of revenue generation and university’s image improvement that is inducing universities to invest huge amounts in college football (Connelly, 2007). The change that college football has undergone is mainly due to the emergence of newer technologies that have facilitated sports marketing and also the increased competition among universities to make money and win tournaments (Jones, 2006).

Over the past few years, the concept of Sports marketing has evolved into a profitable business. It has become the major source of revenue for a large number of universities (Beech, 2008). With universities investing heavily in their resources, the revenue is expected to be much greater. There have been various reasons for the change in college football. The main reason however is sports marketing (Kline, 2008). The integrated use of television, radio, newspapers and other promotional campaigns to arouse interest and excitement among the general public for the game has had a remarkable effect on the program execution (Correia & Esteves, 2007). Events before the actual tournament to attract enough audience in order to ensure high ticket sales and as a result high profits have become a common phenomenon (Correia & Esteves, 2007).

Moreover, the universities are spending a large amount of money on marketing their tournaments. This expenditure on publicity and promotion makes the players and the staff more dependent on the luxuries that the game offers (Dees, Bennett, & Villegas, 2008).


College football games are aired on television on a regular basis. They are promoted through advertisements and these channels offer analysis, reports and inside stories on these games to the viewers (Whalen & Jensen, 1995). Most television channels have increased the air time allocated to these tournaments as more people have become interested in college football over the years (McCarthy, 2006).

Schools combine media and marketing with their football programs by selling coaching shows and broadcasting rights for these games to the highest bidder (Sale, 2008). This has resulted in an increased attention of the athletics department on revenue generation and business as compared to the attention being paid to the players and quality of games (McCarthy, 2006). Therefore college football has merely become a source of revenue for the universities; a product they sell to customers with the help of sponsors to make high profits (Zillgit, 2004).

College football is also promoted through weekly shows or programs that keep the viewers updated about the training status and coaching activities. These shows show coaches from different universities training their respective teams. These shows become a major source of revenue for universities as well (Thomaselli, 2007). Not only are these tournaments shown live but later they are broadcasted again next year to remind the audience of previous winners or the current top ranked teams in order to maintain their interest (Etzel, Walker, Walker, & Stanton, 2000).

Similar programs are also aired on the radio to capture the radio-listening audience. Jingles mentioning the upcoming tournament are frequently aired to update the listeners. There are various radio channels that allow listeners to obtain a live update of the game.

Another form of media that promotes these college tournaments is the internet. The growth in internet users and variety of websites available helps the organizers in getting the maximum exposure for their tournaments. Internet advertisements have become increasingly popular over years (Innovation will help college market thrive, 2008). Pop-up windows apprising the internet user about upcoming games or giving them exciting news has become a common phenomenon. There are various websites which act as the online forum for betting over these games (Sale, 2008).

Newspapers, whether in the paper form or online start advertising these college tournaments months before the actual event making it easier for the organizers to attract a larger audience (Dees, Bennett, & Villegas, 2008). Over the years the many online newspapers have become available which gives the organizers a wide variety to choose from in order to market their tournaments.

Furthermore, a large number of these tournaments are marketed by known marketing firms. These companies specialize in sports marketing and have the know-how to use the right marketing mix to come up with the best sports marketing practices for the given tournaments.

Previously, the concept of marketing college football games was not as common as it has become now. Marketing companies mainly worked for tournaments that were either of state level, national level or international level (Beech, 2008). Therefore the concept of marketing college football tournament is relatively a new one (Etzel, Walker, Walker, & Stanton, 2000).

The advent of new and latest technology such as mobile phones, sms, voice messaging, and email have not only created new opportunities but also new challenges for sports marketers. It is important to select the right form of media in order to market the tournament. Media selection is important as it may directly impact the number of people who intend to attend the tournament. Selecting low grade channels or newspapers may instead of promoting the tournament limit its reach (Sale, 2008).

Where previously, college tournaments were all about fun and health competition, today it has become a sort of business for universities and a source of exposure for companies and their products (McCarthy, 2006).


Corporate sponsorship where large multi-national organizations sponsor the college football tournaments has become increasingly common over the years. Large companies such as Burger King have resorted to marketing their products through sponsoring events like these (Whalen & Jensen, 1995). Their target market is the youth and for them college football tournament provides a great opportunity to reach their target audience as a large part of the audience or those viewing the advertisements are the youngsters (Evaluating NFL team blogs: The good, the bad, the nonexistent, 2008).

Although there is not much empirical evidence available but sport sponsorship has proven to be the most efficient and effective method of marketing (Gombeski Jr., Summer 2008), In an era of increased competition, firms are exploring new marketing modes and sports marketing provides them the uniqueness they aspire to include in their marketing campaigns. Sports marketing allow them to limit their target audience and concentrate their efforts exclusively on this target market (Sale, 2008).


Where advertising campaigns prove to be expensive and time consuming, sports sponsorships offers a more simple and straightforward method to target customers (Etzel, Walker, Walker, & Stanton, 2000). Moreover, for large companies winning or losing is not the point. Their objective in extending corporate sponsorship is to expand their customer base. Another important aspect of sports marketing is its impact on the tournament itself. The goodwill of the company also has a direct impact on the audience that turns up to watch the game (Evaluating NFL team blogs: The good, the bad, the nonexistent, 2008).

However what is important is that the sponsoring company’s reputation may also affect the tournament negatively in terms of people turning up to watch the game or extending their support to the respective team. If the sponsoring company has a bad reputation among the customers, then they may associate the sponsored team with the company and hence may be more reluctant to show up for the tournament. For many companies sports marketing have become a part of the budget plan (Zillgit, 2004).

An important concept here is the relationship that the customer develops between the sponsoring company and the game itself. Corporate sponsorships are making universities more dependent on external finance (Smith, 2008). Hence when the college may fail to find a good sponsor, whether due to a declining team reputation or for other reasons, this may greatly hinder the team motivation (Correia & Esteves, 2007).

Hence it is highly essential that universities select their sponsors after considering all such intricate details that may affect the tournament and its popularity. Besides corporate sponsorships, another phenomenon that has become increasingly popular is apparel contracts. Students get their apparel or track suits designed by companies with the sponsor’s logo on them (Senaux, 2008). From head to toe, the players are appareled in the clothes and accessories provided to them by the sponsors. These practices such as apparel contracts have become extremely common over the last few years (Dees, Bennett, & Villegas, 2008).

It is the money, the apparel contracts, sponsorship and stardom that the marketing companies use that becomes the driving force for a large number of players (College Athletics Jobs and Careers – Outsourced Sports Marketing and Athletics Promotions, 2008). Instead of being attracted to the game itself, many players start aspiring for such commercial purposes. This greatly eliminates the intrinsic motivation that the players may have (Correia & Esteves, 2007).

According to the cognitive evaluation theory, allocation of extrinsic rewards to behaviors that were previously intrinsically rewarded tends to decrease the motivation. This change in motivation has been the result of extreme commercialization of the college football tournaments (Robbins, 2004). It is this reason why for many players winning and losing is not the issue, but being noticed as a single player is important. The concept of team unification therefore is affected by such commercialization. Most players look forward to being noticed for their abilities and want the exposure through these marketing campaigns (Innovation will help college market thrive, 2008).

This greatly deteriorates the team spirit of working together among the players. Game day events and pre-tournament events are another source of revenue for universities. Organizers start conducting events much before the actual tournament in order to arouse excitement among the audience. Also, it generates large amounts of revenue for the universities (Zillgit, 2004).

However, regarding the game day events there have been numerous concerns. The players tend to get drunk during these events. Previously there has been the issue where strippers were hired to entertain recruits. On ethical grounds, all such activities are condemned. This type behavior by the players and university management results in a decline in the team’s reputation which then has an impact on those attending these matches (Correia & Esteves, 2007). Therefore in order to ensure a luxurious stay for players and recruits, the management may cross certain undefined boundaries and the consequences may be grave (Evaluating NFL team blogs: The good, the bad, the nonexistent, 2008).

Hence the concept of a wide variety of game day events to create hype and publicize to the game has its own drawbacks. The growing attention that is given to players during these events diverts their attention away from the game. They become more focused on their image rather than their game (Connelly, 2007). Therefore a great deal of exposure and hype may have a negative impact on the productivity of the players in terms of a good game. (McCarthy, 2006)

Effects on the university

Sports marketing not only help the players get exposure but also help the university in boosting its image and generating high revenues. It is this motivation that compels many universities to give their students scholarships based on their sports credentials. A lot of football players at college therefore are given scholarships so that they can contribute to the college’s sports department (Dees, Bennett, & Villegas, 2008).

College football therefore attracts many young students who cannot afford the tuition fees on good colleges and universities. Hence they focus on developing their football skills in order to get a scholarship. Not only does this help them in getting admission, it also helps the university in getting good players (Dees, Bennett, & Villegas, 2008). This two-way process therefore helps students coming from various different backgrounds get opportunities to pursue their studies while learning and promoting the college’s image through football tournaments (McCarthy, 2006).

The idea of college football has undergone a great change. Sports marketing has had its contribution towards this change. It is because of sports marketing that colleges today allocate a reasonable budget for the tournaments. Where previously, college football did not attract so much attention or media hype, today it becomes the ‘talk of the town’ when the tournament comes closer (Jones, 2006).

As a result, the universities have increased their athletic department budget hiring the best coaches and providing their players with all possible facilities. However, the increase in budgets is not necessarily leading to good games or best players. The budget is mainly being used to finance the luxurious trips and stays of the players and the coaches. Although universities are spending a large amount of money to ensure that they are able to win the tournaments, the hype created by the media is limiting their ability to do so. Most universities fail to keep a strict check on the amount being spent on the teams and as a result huge amounts are being wasted on building team image (Jones, 2006).

Furthermore, the increased hype that has been created attracts even those students who may not qualify for the team. However due to inside politics and donations these students may bring to market the tournament, they maybe selected. This is greatly affecting the quality of players who become a part of the team (Connelly, 2007). Again it is mainly the emphasis on funding and finance that is encouraging these students to bribe the athletics department (Thomaselli, 2007).

The increased competition among college teams has resulted in colleges hiring the best coaches. These coaches are highly paid. This increased demand is therefore leading to a higher salary being paid to coaches (Zillgit, 2004). However, this is also improving the players as the coaches bring a good amount of past experience combined with expertise that they use to train their players (Semansky, 2006). This has made college football much more competitive that it was years ago. Coaches are required to give much more attention to all details concerning the players and the game. They have been brought under extreme pressure and therefore they work hard to make sure their team turns out as the winner (Senaux, 2008).

While these coaches are getting paid by the universities, they usually also have their television shows which act as ‘infomercials’ to potential players, their parents and sponsors (College Athletics Jobs and Careers – Outsourced Sports Marketing and Athletics Promotions, 2008). These coaches have started to act more like ‘salesmen’ instead of coaches charging high salaries from both universities and television channels (Beech, 2008). Nonetheless this brings immense amount of publicity for the team as well as the university (College Athletics Jobs and Careers – Outsourced Sports Marketing and Athletics Promotions, 2008).

In addition to investing in the best coaches, the athletics department of all colleges has also been aiming to hire the best players and efficient staff. Selection for football players has become extremely competitive. Majority of the students want to be a part of the team irrespective of their ability to play football on an intercollegiate level. The management has to adopt a tough selection process to ensure that the team comprises the best players (Robbins, 2004). These players have to have the ability to undergo rigorous training and play skillfully even under pressure. It is a difficult process for the management since they need to take into consideration all these attributes of the players before making a team (Connelly, 2007).

In order to ensure that the team is ready to enter the tournament, the management needs to check whether all required resources are present. Resources include human as well as financial resources. Human resources include staff, doctors, coaches etc whereas financial resources include the adequate budget for the tournament.

The expansion in the athletics department budget and as a result recruitment of best coaches and players has been facilitating college football. All these measures undertaken to ensure that the team does well and the game generates enough revenue for the university.

Sports marketing have led to the universities outsourcing their marketing activities. Various firms undertake the responsibility to market the games for universities (College Athletics Jobs and Careers – Outsourced Sports Marketing and Athletics Promotions, 2008). These firms are responsible for game broadcasts, website creation, sponsors, posters, game day events etc. this has also led to an increased competition among marketing firms since all them are striving to use the most attractive campaigns to publicize their respective team.

Where sports marketing have become increasingly common, it has become harder to distinguish the legal and ethical boundaries. What may appear to be sports marketing to some may appear to others as the ‘selling out’ of teams to large conglomerates. Sports marketing is a new concept that is still being criticized mainly due to its impact on the teams and college football games. Where corporate sponsorships have made teams more dependent


With the growth in media, widening demand for college football and increased athletic department budget, college football has undergone a drastic change. Today the universities are spending much more on marketing their teams that they did a few years ago. The recruitment process, training mechanism and promotion of the games, all processes have become competitive.

Detailed attention is paid to every aspect of the game from team selection to game day events. During this process every university ensures that it has hired the best players, best coaches and the best company to promote or publicize the games. An integration of newspapers, televisions, radio channels and word of mouth is used to promote the game. Every form of media is utilized to contribute towards marketing the tournament.

Where college football has become a major source of revenue for universities, it also serves to bring out new talent. Players are properly trained and all the exposure given to them allows them to think about pursuing a career in football. Today college football is promoted through various means which include corporate sponsorships, game day events, apparel contracts etc. Although all these activities have their own drawbacks in terms of their impact on college football, they are still being promoted. College football has merely become a business for most universities (College Athletics Jobs and Careers – Outsourced Sports Marketing and Athletics Promotions, 2008).

Where its sole purpose should have been giving students the opportunity to compete on an intercollegiate level and serve as a source of entertainment, it is now serving the needs of the universities and the corporate world that uses the tournaments as a source to advertise their own products (Dees, Bennett, & Villegas, 2008).

Despite the drawbacks of sports marketing for college football, its positive impact on college football can certainly not be ignored. It has not only opened different channels for players and coaches to display their talent but also attracts new talent (College Athletics Jobs and Careers – Outsourced Sports Marketing and Athletics Promotions, 2008). The publicity and promotion brings money to the university so that it can expand its athletic department budget which in turn facilitates students who are interested in being a part of the teams. It is helps universities gain sponsors and the sponsors have found a new source of promotion. Therefore sports marketing allows a two way benefit both for the universities and the corporate world. While the corporate sponsors finance the teams, the teams promote their products.

Hence college football over the years has been affected by sports marketing to a great deal. Nonetheless each change is accompanied by benefits and drawbacks. Where sports marketing may have negatively affected college football in some ways, it has certainly helped the industry grow bigger.

Works Cited

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2.      Beech, J. (2008). Book Review: Marketing and Football: an International Perspective. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing (IJSMM) , 123-124.

3.      College Athletics Jobs and Careers – Outsourced Sports Marketing and Athletics Promotions. (2008). Retrieved November 1, 2008, from Job Monkey: http://www.jobmonkey.com/sports/html/outsources_sports_marketing.html

4.      Connelly, M. (2007). Nissan kicks off college football promotions. (AN 26571547). Automotive News , 34.

5.      Correia, A., & Esteves, S. (2007). An exploratory study of spectators’ motivation in football. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing (IJSMM) , 572-590.

6.      Dees, W., Bennett, G., & Villegas, J. (2008). Measuring the Effectiveness of Sponsorship of an Elite Intercollegiate Football Program. (AN 32830525). Sport Marketing Quarterly , 79-89.

7.      Etzel, M. J., Walker, B. J., Walker, S., & Stanton, W. J. (2000). Marketing. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

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10.  Innovation will help college market thrive. (2008). Street and Smiths Sports Business Journal , 32.

11.  Jones, J. M. (2006). College Football Fans Tab Ohio State as Pre-Season No. 1 in Inaugural Poll: Brady Quinn rated as top Heisman Trophy contender. (AN 22444862). Gallup Poll Briefing , 6-8.

12.  Kline, A. (2008). Social networks influence colleges’ marketing plans. (AN 34267684). Business First of Buffalo , 1-39.

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14.  Robbins, S. P. (2004). Organizational Behavior. New York: Pearsons.

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17.  Senaux, B. (2008). A stakeholder approach to football club governance. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing (IJSMM) , 4-17.

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20.  Whalen, J., & Jensen, J. (1995). Football’s newest rookie: Burger King. (AN 9508225881). Advertising Age , 1-3.

21.  Zillgit, J. (2004). College athletics needs budget cap, thinking cap. Retrieved November 3, 2008, from USA TODAY: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/zillgitt/2004-02-18-zillgitt_x.htm


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