College Sports: Will it Survive?

This conversation is happening in every collegiate athletics department around the country right now. My answer as to will college sports survive is yes, but…

The only way college sports will survive is if every department evaluates what is truly at the heart of what they do, recognizes what is most important and makes that a priority.

Every. Day. Of. The. Year.
Period.

What might you ask is at the heart of college sports? Community.
What is most important? Real connections with real people. Again, community.

Make that the focus and the priority and everything else will fall into place. College sports will survive if each department recognizes what really makes them great and what they really stand for. Every employee. Every day. All year. All conversations. With everyone you meet.

Is the competition aspect important? Yes. But it’s not everything. The community is everything.

College sports are unique and some legendary programs now span centuries of active existence and participation. And yet for some that legacy is in jeopardy. For others, they’re more confident now than they’ve ever been and they continue to reinvest in their communities.

I’ll say it again: College sports will survive if the executives in charge put community at the heart of everything they do and make their work about the community and nothing else.

Is money important. Yes, absolutely.

Are expenses real and growing every year, if not every month or day? Yes, absolutely.

So what do I mean by community?

I mean the collection of people who all believe in something greater than themselves. The community of alumni, employees, friends, fans and citizens that come together to celebrate the culture that exists around the competition.

This topic is somewhat controversial and may stir some people the wrong way, but over the next few months, I’ll be exploring why and how I think college sports can survive. The grand summary of how college sports will survive is community.

Community is service to others.
Community is acceptance.
Community is celebration.
Community is core values.
Community is academia and business coming together.
Community is people connecting at a higher level.

Community is love.

Be Clear About the Difference

Sports are entertainment. We won’t get into amateur and college athletics, as that is a whole different topic for another day. So yes, sports are a form of entertainment, albeit unique.

Entertainment for most people falls into the area of discretionary income. Most of the population has a set amount of money with which they will spend on things other than life’s essentials – food, clothing, shelter. It is then up to the sport executives TO BE CLEAR ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE between what makes them worthy of the money they charge for the entertainment elements they provide and everything else a person might come across.

A lot of what I talk about here on this blog are subtle differences about marketing, sales, and other aspects of the business of sports; subtle, yet very important. To really be of value to someone and to really be able to develop a relationship with those who think you matter as an organization, you have to be clear about the difference between that person spending their hard earned money on you as opposed to something else.

What is it that makes you worthy of their time?
Of their money?
Of their thoughts and tweets and likes?
What is it that you provide the customer that makes you different from anything else they might be doing? Prove it.

Here are a few examples of you might begin to answer this question:
Connection
Community
Team bonding
Athletic bodies competing
Flashy moves
Touchdown dances
Seeing yourself on the big screen
Being a part of something great than yourself
Yelling at the top of your lungs
The feeling of being at a sold out game so loud you can’t hear anything but intimidating noise
The thrill of victory
The agony of defeat

These are only examples of how you might begin to define what it is that makes you different from all the other options a person might have in terms of spending their discretionary income. Be so clear about the difference between what you can control and everything else, that everyone who comes across your brand has no choice but to either fall in love or get out of the way. Be so clear about what makes you unique that everyone has an opinion as to whether or not you’re the one for them.

And once you figure that out – make sure everyone in your organization knows the answer and can articulate the difference in their own words. This must be something literally everyone lives and breathes, from the President down to the part-time staff working minimal hours. If not everyone believes and talks about the same thing at all times, it can be like a cancer, eating away at what you’re trying to accomplish. Control you message and be clear about the difference.

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Go Forth!