Adventures at the All Star Classic: Observations for Optimal Branding

November 28, 2011

I am constantly amazed at what you can learn when you just pay attention to the interactions that take place around you.  I intentionally approached the NWCA All Star Classic with this mentality and I am confident that I left the event with some great marketing concepts to pass on to coaches.  Now we just need to see if I can write this in a manner that inspires you to read through this entire entry.  My gut tells me that I can pull this off 🙂  Just in case, I am planning on keeping this one short and to the point.  I present to you the three primary “Observations for Optimal Branding” that were inspired from interactions at the All Star Classic.  Hopefully there is at least one thing here that you can take to improve your marketing efforts in the future.

Observations for Optimal Branding

1.  Accessibility can “elevate” brand: With the growing popularity of the internet and social network sites, interviews have become a premium for programs looking to build their brand.  In essence, when coaches (and student-athletes) are able to do quality interviews with circulation potential, they are giving their program an opportunity to grow from a marketing standpoint.  However, this is not possible if coaches do not make it a priority to make themselves accessible at events.

Related Observation: During my short time at the All Star Classic, I had interactions with coaches (and student-athletes) that were both good and bad.  I am happy to say that 90% of interactions were good with individuals at this particular event.  One example was the interview that I did with Northwestern’s #3 Jason Welch.  Following his victory at 157 pounds, I asked him to do an interview for the NWCA and he said he was happy to do it right away, but that he would prefer to do it after his 10 minutes of sprints.  Thinking he might be blowing me off (based on experience with another program), I was pleasantly surprised when he found me to follow-up with the interview.  I can’t tell you how impressed I was with Jason during my interactions.  He definitely represented himself in a manner that built the brand of Northwestern University Wrestling in my mind.  There were several other individuals who did this as well during the event.  This speaks volumes about the mentality that many coaches and student-athletes have in non-revenue sports such as men’s wrestling.

2. Lack of accessibility can negatively alter brand: If positive accessibility is clearly an added value branding benefit, then lack of accessibility can be seen as a missed opportunity to build the image of your program.  This alone is something that the sport of wrestling cannot afford.  However, this is not the only downside to a lack of accessibility.  When handled the wrong way (promise an interview you have no intention of delivering), it can actually detract from your program’s brand.  While full access cannot be granted at all times, it is important to develop a mindset (and team protocol) that allows you to build your program from a marketing standpoint.

Related Observation: In all of the interviews that I did, there was only one program that completely blew me off during the All Star Classic.  Rather than focusing on the specific team, it makes more sense to discuss the potential marketing implications from these types of behaviors.  When you do not take the time to follow through on an “agreed” interview, it actually has the potential to hurt your program’s brand in a variety of different ways.  So, if you do not plan on doing an interview, then it is best to decline the invitation so you can limit the damage you do to your brand.

3. Humor is a rare form of differentiation: There is no question that wrestling is a serious sport that takes a high level of focus and intensity to succeed.  This is a probably the primary reason why many coaches are so “locked in” (note: this is a nice way of saying a little nuts) during practice and competition.  This is why humor is such a refreshing change of pace when you see it during an event.  In an interview format, it can actually serve as a point of differentiation because humor is a universal language that can be understood by a broad audience.

Related Observation: There were a few coaches that demonstrated a little humor behind the camera during the interviews: Matt Valenti (Assistant Coach – Penn), Kerry McCoy (Head Coach – Maryland), and Chris Pendleton (Assistant Coach – Wyoming).  In a sport that is known for being extremely hard nosed, these guys found a way to have a little fun when answering questions.  As a result, it was a little easier to want to support their programs.  Something that might at least be worth considering when developing videos for your program.

Other Optimal Branding Observations

Some coaches flat out get it: For those of you have been reading this blog, you know that intentionally investing in people is an important consideration for individuals looking to brand their program.  Attending the All Star Classic reinforced that some coaches are really outstanding at interacting with people on a regular basis.  As a result, they are able to build the brand of their program one person at a time.  Naturally, this leads to positive word-of-mouth marketing as well.  This is the foundation of successful marketing.

It’s going to take innovation: As I reflect on my trip, there is one theme that continues to creep into my mind.  To grow the sport, coaches are going to have to embrace a risk taking mentality that will allow them to innovate in their marketing efforts.  I will address specifically what this means in a future entry.  It is time to get to bed 🙂

“Success comes from the ability to invest in the seemingly little things on a daily basis.  Differentiate by embracing these when others choose not to”


About ELSMarketing

ELSM is a company that specializes in the development and implementation of innovative marketing plans for sport organizations, businesses, and programs. By focusing on the client’s goals and expectations, we strive to develop strategies that will build the brand of the entity in a way that will ensure future success. The bottom line is that we are committed to working with entities who are looking to take themselves to the next level from a marketing standpoint. While there are a variety of strategies that we implement to achieve this, it starts with the values we have in place for our company. Here at ELSM, “Innovation is the Expectation!”
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