Published July 27, 2012 - 12:00pm
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If you’ve been paying attention, the Arkansas athletic department has unleashed its dynamic duo of Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis in preparation for a special 2012 season. Davis and Wilson are two of the top athletes in the SEC in 2012 and Arkansas is making sure the general public and national media are well aware.
It started earlier this year when then-head coach Bobby Petrino discussed with Davis and Wilson the decision of coming back for another season at Arkansas or heading to the NFL. Petrino brought in the director of football media relations, Zach Higbee, to be a part of the discussions.
As part of the discussions, Higbee and the athletic department presented Davis and Wilson with a written marketing plan aimed at increasing the exposure for the athletes. The promotional effort is a win/win for players and program when you consider that Arkansas also benefits by getting the Razorback brand out on the national college football scene – something that can’t hurt future recruiting.
Higbee likely pulls much of his strategy from being on the Florida athletic department staff in 2007 when Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. The Florida media relations team worked hard to put Tebow on the national scene especially through the frequent use of interviews.
Unlike the Florida campaign, Arkansas is also taking to social media to push the awareness of Davis and Wilson. The newly created @ARKTD2012 Twitter handle is being used to spread the message in the Twitterverse. Up to 4,000 followers as of this writing, expect the account to promote articles, interviews and maybe even video clips of Davis and Wilson for the duration of the season.
Higbee told the Associated Press that it’s about getting the athletes in the national conversation:
“I think what you really want to do is, when the seasons starts, get your guys in the position where they’re in the conversation, said Zack Higbee, Arkansas’ director of football media relations. “They don’t have to be the frontrunner or anything like that, just in the mix. And then from there it kind of handles itself.”
It’s easy to see why a marketing plan is attractive for college football’s top athletes. It’s not just about postseason awards. While NFL teams rely on their scouts, having the media sing your praises doesn’t hurt and the difference in just a few spots in the NFL Draft can result in large increases or decreases in pay.
The logical question then becomes: where will this go? Will marketing packages be presented in the living rooms of talented high school prospects?
Often times, the coaches will convince an athlete that by attending their school and playing for their team, they will have the best route to the NFL. Well, adding a marketing campaign to the conversation isn’t a stretch.
The cost of the current Arkansas campaign was said to be “minimal” but what about in a few years when schools have to compete with eachother on the basis of marketing? Could we see an athletic department hire a world class marketing firm to develop advertisements for athletes? I wouldn’t say for certain that this will never happen.
This conversation falls into the larger context of many of the trends we’re seeing in college football today. The major programs have huge resources and can leverage those resources to attract the top talent. As football programs have larger budgets and are run more like businesses, the smaller programs will fail to keep up.