Rethinking Football as Branding Element: Mounting Incidents of Sports-Related Brain Injuries Should Make Schools Think Twice

By Gerdy, John | University Business, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Rethinking Football as Branding Element: Mounting Incidents of Sports-Related Brain Injuries Should Make Schools Think Twice


Gerdy, John, University Business


One of the primary justifications universities use for sponsoring football programs is that they serve as the "front porch" of the institution. Given the popularity and intense media coverage of the games, players and coaches, it is hard to argue the point. For many institutions, football is the largest and clearest window through which the public views not only our colleges and universities, but our entire educational system.

It is not surprising that many schools consider football an effective way to build and strengthen their institutional brand. A successful football program can increase visibility, attract a more diverse student body and generate institutional resources in the form of sponsorships and donations. Some schools have started or re-instated football programs specifically for branding purposes.

The catch

Here's a question every educational institution must consider. How do you continue to build and enhance the brand of an educational institution by focusing on an activity that scrambles kids' brains? If the central purpose of a university is to provide entertainment for the public, focusing on football as a branding tool makes complete sense. But if the institution's central purpose is education, the search for truth and developing our nation's youth, how is that helped by to sponsoring and celebrating an activity that an increasing amount of research tells us is profoundly dangerous and debilitating? Isn't the role and purpose of an educational institution to build and strengthen brains?

Given the changing cultural consensus regarding the dangers of football, a school that relies too heavily on the sport as a long-term branding tool may be setting itself up for failure. With increased attention by the media and the growing concern of parents for allowing their children to play football, the sport will face a steady decline in youth participation (already in progress) as well as sponsorship of junior high and high school programs. Similar to boxing's decline in public popularity due to its extreme violence, so too will football's popularity decline. …

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