Saturday, June 8, 2013

Brand This!

Enema U is having an open discussion about football.  Well, actually one of the university's Evil Overlords wrote a letter to the local newspaper claiming that the university needs football.  As he explained it, football helps brand the university. 

Personally, I think that Division 1 football for a southwestern Ag school is more like an anchor—or a millstone—around the financial neck of an impoverished state university, but who am I to argue with an Evil Overlord.  And I confess, not that long ago, I made a suggestion for re-branding Enema U.

Unfortunately, the whole idea of branding is so 1990’s.  It is a marketing idea whose time has come and gone.  Perhaps we should refer to Jonathan Salem Baskin’s book:  Branding Only Works on Cattle—a perfect choice for an Ag school.  In his book, Baskin points out that branding as a marketing scheme simply does not work.  He carefully points out that the Burger King mascot is readily identifiable, but probably never sold a single hamburger.  There is a reason why Taco Bell had the Chihuahua put to sleep sent to live on the happy farm and Geico sent the cavemen to a museum.  They were identifiable, but did not attract new customers. 

Successful marketing links a product or a service to something new, valuable, or unique.  Baskin gives the example of Starbucks, who took the common cup of coffee and promoted the image of high quality and convenience.  None of this is possible with a football team that hasn’t had a winning season since…well, shit!  The last time Enema U had a good enough season to be invited to a bowl game, John-John was playing under President Kennedy’s desk.

In a media-saturated market, successful marketing no longer works with cute phrases, goofy mascots, and marching bands.  What works is carefully analyzing what our students really want and then delivering a high quality education.  And this will be true no matter how many times our Evil Overlords scream, “Go, Zombies!”

I hate that whole “Go, Team, Go!” mantra crap.  Life is not a game that you play for an hour.  Winners are not the ones with the most points.  Everything truly good in your life will be the result of years of hard work and preparation and your successes will be slowly accumulated over time.  You know, kind of a like a four-year degree program.  How many places in life would it be appropriate to scream out these simplistic moronic platitudes to people hard at work?  Do nurses scream at surgeons, “Cut, Doc, Cut!” in an operating room?  The next time you are on an airplane, get as close as you can to the cockpit door, and at the last possible moment, scream, “Land, Pilot, Land!”  I hope the sky marshal shoots you in the crotch with a rubber bullet.

Since I have worked at Enema U, the school has probably spent on football (and I admit this number is only a semi-educated guess--which means it is probably as ignorant as a lady’s watch) a quarter of a billion dollars.  Fortunately, New Mexico didn’t need that money.  The taxpayers couldn’t possibly have done anything more effective with the cash--the state didn’t need more schools, hospitals, or fire stations.  Surely, the university hired the finest professors who taught in up-to-date classrooms while charging the lowest tuition.  And I believe in Tinkerbelle.

Yes, I know what you are thinking: College football brings in donations and makes lots of money.  No, even in the big league schools it usually doesn’t.  Take the time to read the report from the Knight Commission, or look at the data on the U.S. News and World Report website.  That quarter of a billion dollars is over and above gate receipts, donations, and the loose change the coaches sweep up under the stands after we finish losing a game.

Naturally, I have a suggestion--a fair suggestion.  In order to generate enough cash to continue to fund the bottomless pit of football, Enema U has privatized several services on campus.  We leased out the campus bookstore and turned it into a Hukked on Foniks T-Shirt Shop.  We leased out the cafeterias to a company that specializes in providing meals to airports and prisons.  (Presumably, we get their leftovers.)

If leasing out university services effectively delivers a quality product to our students—and I believe that is our state mandate—let’s shut down the football program until a company steps forward and is willing to lease it and run it at a profit.  Since I’m sure the coaches and athletic supporters who have claimed that college sports actually make money have been telling us the absolute truth for years, it shouldn’t take long for a smart investor to step up and lease our team. 

And the new owners can brand each other on any body part they can reach.


  1. Wonder what the cost per football victory in New Mexico has been - just considering the head coach's salary for UNM and NMSU - for the last two to five years.

    Quite expensive I would think. We could probably hire quite a few academic professors at each university.

  2. Well, let's do the math. Since the tenured professors are already teaching a full load, let's say we used the $4.5 million transferred annually from academics to football to hire adjunct professors. The average adjunct makes about $4500 per class. Figuring that the administration would absorb half that amount in overhead, that still leaves us with 500 classes per year.

    Since each class has an average of 30 students, and each student pays $271.40 per credit hour, that works out to $10,863,00 in lost tuition. Of course, this doesn't include book store revenue, fees, and the assorted recouped cost from cafeterias, snacks stores, etc.

    So, losing the $4.5 million means we have many millions more squandered in lost tuition. The students lose the benefit of a wider selection of classes. The adjunct lose the chance of employment.

    And, of course, all of New Mexico loses the benefit of educated students.

    There is a hell of a lot more than one way to lose at football.