Article excerpt

Name: Vince Nicastro

Title: Director of Athletics, Villanova University, 2000-present

Education: MBA, St. Joseph's University

BS, Bloomsburg University

Career: Associate Athletics Director, Villanova University, 1998-2000

Assistant Athletics Director, Villanova University, 1997-1998

Director of Ticket Operations, Villanova University, 1994-1997

Director of Tickets/Promotions, St. Joseph's University, 1990- 1994

Director of Operations, Williamsport Bills/Eastern League Baseball, 1989-1990

Villanova is part of one of the most recognized brands in college sport, if not of all American sport, that being the Big East. How do you balance keeping the individual brand strength of the institution along with being part of the larger brand?

There is a great deal of positive reciprocity involved in our Big East relationship. There is no doubt that the Big East certainly has had a huge impact on Villanova's brand over the past 25-plus years. Our affiliation with the Big East is one of the top factors that have differentiated our programs from many others around the nation. At the same time, the institutions that make up the conference (which are very diverse in many ways) have made serious commitments to the strategic goals of the conference. The individual and group commitments feed off of one another.

How much input do the individual institutions have in the decisions related to the Big East's marketing and branding?

The member institutions have a great deal of input when it comes to the strategic decisions. The conference leadership has always used the expertise at the school level for advancing the overall mission. Athletics Directors (or other personnel at the school level) are intimately involved in strategic decisions like selecting media (television) and marketing partners and negotiating agreements with them.

Villanova has what could be characterized as positive and strong brand associations. What are the keys to protecting and continuing to enhance the brand?

We are extremely fortunate. We feel that our brand is indeed positive and strong. This has been developed over many decades. Our goal as the current leader is to be stewards of the brand-it is precious and needs to be protected and nurtured.

Of course, one of our more recent objectives has been to extend the brand to a broader audience. On a tactical level, we are leveraging the power of our brand with television and other new media as much as possible. I think that Villanova's image across the country and internationally has been presented in a more consistent and positive way in the past decade, which has resulted in a positive impact on the school's reputation and level of prestige.

A couple of keys to protecting the brand are to make sure that you have an organization that has a strong mission, and a vision that people believe in. No doubt we have that here at Villanova. From time to time you see organizations changing their mission and messages with every new trend. This vacillating back and forth doesn't allow them to gain traction toward building the long-term brand.

Also, someone once told me that the key to managing a brand often isn't what you do, it's what you don't do. There are many temptations to in the marketplace to bastardize the brand for short-term gain . . . they are often difficult to walk away from.

What are the keys to a successful partnership with a sport marketing firm (ISP Sports)?

Just like anything, you have to have great people representing your program (even if they aren't technically "Villanovans") and they have to have a strong understanding and belief in your program. This creates the trust that you need in these types of relationships . . . it makes it a true partnership.

Of course, the best thing we can do is have successful teams and programs-a great product that people want to be associated with. …