I don’t know about you, but for me, this is the best time of year.
The weather is changing. Flowers are blooming. The days are longer.
And March Madness has arrived.
I know most of you, like me, will be spending a lot of time filling out brackets trying to crack the code. ESPN will be on a lot, and work productivity will reach all time lows. You’ll root for the underdog and celebrate the heroics.
There’s a lesson to be learned during tournament time, the lesson of having a powerful brand.
Everyone loves the underdog this time of year. Upsets are a tournament novelty that American can’t get enough of. There’s just something about seeing Goliath fall that puts a little bit of hope in all of us.
Unfortunately, the NCAA doesn’t see it that way.
Every year there’s a big fuss about which teams squeak into the tournament and this year is no exception. Mediocre teams like Syracuse and Pitt made it over mid-majors with way better records like Monmouth.
Why is that?
Well the obvious answer is money, but the sub-answer to that is branding.
Teams like Syracuse and Pitt have a massive following and their school brands are strong. The list of Pitt and Syracuse alum run a lot deeper than any mid-major. Someone who doesn’t follow college hoops will be more likely to tune into an Orange or Panther game.
How does a smaller school build themselves up to those levels?
It’s a lot of factors. Winning is the most important but timing and a splash of luck play a role.
The best example of this is Butler.
The bulldogs went on a tear a few years ago and gained so much momentum that now they’re part of the Big East Conference. Sure, this isn’t the Big East Kemba Walker controlled but it’s still one of the major conferences in America. Butler made it to the National Championship Game and beat a lot of name brands (Pitt) along the way. They even took out my dear alma mater, ODU.
Anyway, Butler has built it’s own brand and now will get the benefit of the doubt during tournament time in regards to being invited and even seeding.
So, let’s review.
If a mid-major wants the same love as bigger schools then they need to win and win at the right time against the right team.
Side bar: who ya got this year?
As always, thanks for reading.