It’s no secret that collegiate sport doesn’t come without its controversy and critics, with players rightfully fighting for autonomy and their fair slice of this (very lucrative) pie. But it’s also undeniable that this branch of college life is a beast when it comes to raising the profile of institutions, binding that famous American college spirit and bringing in some serious cash.
In 2018-2019 the top earners in college athletics made in the region of 220 million dollars. These sporting events are baked into the US education landscape due to their benefits both on and off the field, for both student and institution, but here are some of the reasons why collegiate sport can help you bring in the gold:
Connecting students with their institution
Building that sense of community and loyalty is something that all institutions should place great emphasis on, and for many, college sport is one effective way to do that. There’s nothing like feeling part of something greater; a sea of college colours on game day really does create those bonds that keep students engaged with your institution for life. From hashtags to live streams, collegiate sports definitely help create the buzz that both existing and prospective students can’t get enough of.
Exciting your alumni and donors
And this sense of pride and community doesn’t just stop at students either. Financial contributors, stakeholders and alumni often respond positively to an active and passionate student body and gold-standard sports program, being able to see the positive impact their donations and budget allocations are having with tangible evidence. While alumni feel proud and motivated to stay connected with their alma mater even after they’ve graduated and their need for education is fulfilled.
One of our very own Net Natives to this day excitedly follows his college basketball team and frequently reminds the office how they are performing throughout the season. Loyalty really can last a lifetime, and it can work in surprising ways.
The old adage ‘all publicity is good publicity’ rings true, with NCAA-generated publicity, both positive and negative, encouraging donations among supporters. Research by the University of Tennessee found that donations actually increased when an athletic program was under NCAA investigation for rule-breaking. Their study suggests that fans who are emotionally attached to an institution’s team rally round in times of struggle (and donate furiously; to the tune of $208 million in increased donations in some instances!).
Student recruiting ability
The more successful a university’s athletic program, and by extension, their sports teams, the more likely it is that applications from prospective students will increase. A successful team, especially one that goes on to win important championship games, will get more local, regional and even national exposure. Research has found that NCAA Division I success significantly increases the quantity of applications to a school by up to 8%. While others have found that a school that has a stellar year in basketball or football on average receives up to 10% more SAT scores. With a larger pool of student applicants, universities gain the ability to choose from the cream of the crop and cultivate a thriving center of higher learning.
Positioning these sporting wins, the community you’ve fostered and the opportunities your students have because of these programs, is one way to stand out from the competition and put your institution on the map. We know that students aren’t just looking for a degree anymore, they want the full experience, so how can you show them that you can do just that? (Hint: we can definitely help.)
Strengthening bonds between university and community
Communities are not always the biggest fans of universities and colleges popping up on their doorstep, as with them, they bring noisy young students, traffic, and tax-exempt statuses.
But in the same breath, the more successful a college’s athletic program, the more popular the area becomes. Bringing in custom and sales from all over the country for local businesses, as well as jobs and better facilities for residents as sporting teams rise through the ranks. As we said earlier, a nationally winning football team doesn’t just make students feel proud, it can spread through the entire local community too.
Building your school’s brand
The winning performance of your baseball and sailing teams will heavily impact the visibility of the school itself outside of campus. In other words, the more wins and golds your sporting teams get, the better brand your college is building. Drawing in prospective students, donors and sponsorship partnerships from all over the country.
And these wins can help your brand beyond an athlete's college life too. Publicizing the names and numbers of major league baseball players who went to your school will only continue building your program and school’s reputation. Every time a point is scored by a past student in the major leagues, your institution’s name can be brought back to the forefront - talk about strong brand ambassadors.
All-in-all, when done right, leveraged in a positive and effective way and managed properly, college athletics can be hugely positive for academic institutions. They aren’t just an extracurricular activity any more, but perhaps a necessary tool in elevating your school from institution to household name.
If you would like to find out how you can position your sporting achievements or outstanding athletic programmes to boost your student recruitment efforts, get in touch with our experts today.