In a previous UV, Brian called out one of Brandon’s chief marketers for saying that the players were the customers. In the UV of Oct 4, I commented that maybe the players ARE the customers. This got a few positive responses and a few negative responses. I want to expand on this idea a bit.
I work in marketing. I just returned from an internal marketing meeting. One of the ideas that our Chief Marketing Officer drove home was “there is always competition - know your competition and you will know your market.” Let’s see how this fits into the college football space.
Let’s define the customer as the end user of a product or service. Fans fit this definition. A fan can be a warm body in the stands, a warm body watching the game on TV, a warm body buying merchandise, or some combination. These are the ways that fans are customers. Let’s assume that you are a fan and you are starting to get very stingy with your entertainment dollars. You will begin to look at the competition. What does that mean in terms of college football? Does it mean you will start going to Eastern games because they’re cheaper? No. Perhaps it means you will not renew your season tickets, or you will buy fewer t-shirts, or maybe you will cancel cable TV. If you do anything, you will trim your spending. You will not forego your love of Wolverine football. Realistically, then, very little competition exists for customers as end users. This is due to extreme brand loyalty.
If you were to define a customer as the end user of a product or service, then the fans are the customers and there is no competition. But there is always competition. I define a customer as somebody who will react to changing conditions/competition. Here, the fans are not customers because their brand loyalty is basically certain. Let me give you an example. When UM hired Brady Hoke, Brian (seemingly) was pretty upset. He was a supporter of Rich Rodriguez and the idea of the RR experiment. He had previously denounced Hoke as a crony. Yet when Hoke was announced as the hire, Brian didn’t vote with his feet. He didn’t become a fan of Purdue. His loyalty is certain. He is a fan from his youth and an alumnus. He is not going to start supporting the Buckeyes.
So the question becomes who CAN vote with their feet and respond to changing conditions? The answer is student athletes. When RR was hired there may have been much dissent among the fanbase, but I doubt too many began rooting for Ohio. Yet when RR was hired Justin Boren went to Ohio. I do not know of one Michigan fan who suddenly switched their allegiance to Arkansas upon the RR hire, but I do know of one player who did.
In the business model of college football, the revenue does ultimately come from the fans as paying customers. Because of bowls and merchandising, and demand for seats, that revenue is directly dependant on the competitiveness of the product on the field. Dave Brandon knows the athletic department can count on the brand loyalty of Michigan fans. The athletic department is competing with other schools for the talents of the student athletes.