Marketing has become an aspect of college athletics that many people do not recognize. Sure, some people tune into college football games to check out the uniforms.
I get that, and I am guilty of doing the same thing some times. What most people do not realize, however, is how big of a factor that sports apparel companies (such as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour) are becoming in college football today.
For those that do not know, for each sport at a college or university, you are able to seek out the brand you would like to sponsor you. For the majority of Division I, II and III, the school contacts a brand to enquire about pricing and they compare the brands with each other to figure out which company will earn their business.
For powerhouse, Bowl Championship Series football schools, however, the situation is a little different. Eugene, Ore. is not a place that has jumped out at high school graduates when they are mulling through college options. I have never been there, and I will probably never go there.
For nearly their whole existence, the University of Oregon has had a losing record. Yet, during the past decade they have become a national powerhouse, appearing in the BCS National Championship last year. The average looking Autzen Stadium has become packed with a student body crazy about their football team, and they turn over revenue grossing more than the majority of other college football teams.
Why is this? Anybody who has seen them play knows the answer: their uniforms! In 1959, a notable alumnus graduated from the University of Oregon, namely Phil Knight. As owner and creator of Nike, Knight felt like it was his duty to intervene. In the 90s, Knight stepped in to help Oregon, spending $300 million on stadium additions, locker rooms, a new indoor practice facility and luxury boxes.
Back at Nike headquarters, workers were busy making uniforms, helmets, custom shoes, and gloves and accessories that would set Oregon apart from any other college football team in the nation. The paint that was featured on the dark green Oregon helmets cost $2,400 a gallon.
People at home started to tune in to watch the Oregon Ducks play, not just because they were becoming good on the football field, but because of the anticipation to see what new uniform they would unveil that week. When NFL running back LaMicheal James was asked why he came to Oregon he responded that, “I liked the uniforms, and then I started learning more about Oregon.” Now many teams, such as Texas Christian University, Boise State and Oklahoma State, have begun to adopt the same method that Oregon has used and they have had some success.
TCU and Boise State are little schools that have appeared in BCS bowl games in the last couple years. So you may ask yourself, “How could anybody compete with a school such as the University of Alabama, the University of Southern California or Notre Dame University?”
In response to this query, I would not underestimate the power of cosmetics in this generation of college football, as Oregon can pay testament to.