Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Qualitative Analysis of Athletic Apparel and Equipment Sponsorship Related to Student-Athlete Recruitment

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Qualitative Analysis of Athletic Apparel and Equipment Sponsorship Related to Student-Athlete Recruitment

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to extend previous literature on student-athlete college choice by examining part of the recruitment process as a precursor to student-athlete decision-making. More specifically, this exploratory study aimed to empirically examine the extent to which apparel sponsorships affect student-athlete recruitment. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten football players at a state-supported NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) institution in the Rocky Mountain region. An inductive approach was used in identifying three emergent themes. These themes suggest that football players at this institution did not hold the apparel and equipment sponsorship as a deciding factor for the commitment to a school, though they did hold strong opinions towards New Balance, and the other three brands referenced during the interviews. The values expressed by these participants can provide a basis for future apparel and equipment contracts at this institution. As this study was exploratory in nature, the findings lay the framework for similar research across gender, sport, school, and conference. Keywords: NCAA, Student-Athlete, Recruitment, Apparel, Brand, Qualitative

As a result of the economic downturn in the United States, college athletic administrators face the challenge of balancing a high level of competition with cost-cutting measures (DeSchriver, 2009; Fort, 2010; Lapchick, 2010). There is a substantial amount of pressure on athletic departments to produce conference and national championships, particularly in revenue-generating sports such as men's basketball and football, as a means to garner attention and build upon the reputation of their entire institution. Athletic departments act as brand ambassadors by being one of the most visible departments and as substantial revenue generators. Colleges and universities sponsor Nation Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletics as a means to compete for athletic achievement, gain national recognition, sell tickets, increase revenues, fundraise (Martinez, Stinson, Kang, & Jubenville, 2010; Meer & Rosen, 2009), and improve the quality of university admissions (Chressanthis & Grimes, 1993; Jones, 2009; Judson, 2004; Letawsky, Schneider, Pedersen, & Palmer, 2003; McEvoy, 2006; Toma & Cross, 1998). However, despite substantial budgets, most athletic departments operate in a deficit in order to achieve these operational benefits. The latest NCAA report indicated that only 23 Division I institutions generated an overall profit (Brown, 2012).

Athletic departments face pressure to realize the financial and reputational benefits of winning at the national level. In order to compete at this high level, a substantial amount of money is dedicated to recruiting blue-chip student-athletes. The top 35 spenders on studentathlete recruitment at the Division I level all spent between $1,000,000 and $2,229,600 for the 2011 recruitment year (Jessop, 2012). Undoubtedly, the many programs outside of this small group of high spenders cannot allocate similar funds to their recruiting efforts, which put them at a distinct competitive disadvantage. The rewards earned from winning programs are fostered by a variety of elements including coaches, facilities, and financial support, but successful recruiting is the lifeline to an athletic program. Furthermore, "without gifted athletes, even the most talented strategist or motivator will be rendered ineffective as a coach" (Judson, 2004, p. 24). Judson's statement emphasizes the importance for athletic departments to recruit effectively, but for the departments with tight budgets, this must also be done efficiently.

A substantial gap exists in the student-athlete recruitment literature. Researchers have investigated the college choice of general freshmen (Hossler, Schmit, & Vesper, 1999; Kaufman & Creamer, 1991; Servier, 1993), as well as the unique factors that affect studentathlete choice (Garbert, Hale, & Montalvo, 1999; Judson, James, & Aurand, 2004; Letawsky et al. …

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