Scoring Big With DR1 Jan, 2009 By: Doug McPherson Response
If you were watching Auburn University face the University of Alabama in the schools' annual college football grudge match on CBS on Nov. 29, you might have noticed a scroll at the bottom directing viewers to visit NCAA.com for the latest collegiate athletic wear and other merchandise.
A peek inside college football's marketing playbook.
College football is pulling out the direct response playbook — and why not? The sport's fans make for a savory demographic: typically male, 18-49, with household incomes of $150,000-199,000 and education in the postgraduate level. These fans, according to Mediamark Research Inc., a marketing research firm in New York, like import cars, hot tubs, steam cookers, espresso makers and electronic organizers, among other items.
Alex Riethmiller, a spokesperson for CBS Sports, says he's seeing growing interest in direct response and interactive advertising for sports fans — and college football in particular. "We call it contextual selling, building stories around the game and big wins to capture the emotion," Riethmiller says. "We definitely see spikes when we run the NCAA.com scroll."
Spikes mean money, and in this case, big money. The estimated worth of the officially licensed collegiate merchandise and apparel market, according to Rivals.com, a sports news group in Brentwood, Tenn., is $2.5 billion.
If you were tuned into that game, or major matchups the same day featuring universities like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State or Southern California and Notre Dame, you weren't alone. The fan base for college football is growing bigger and faster than a freshman lineman.
"Saturday Night Football" on ABC (presented as "ESPN on ABC" by the Disney-owned entities) is the only weekly primetime college football series on broadcast television. In 2008, the weekly 8 p.m. Eastern time game posted a 33-percent jump over the previous year's ratings with an average of more than 5.4 million households and a 4.8 Nielsen rating through November. Texas Tech University's last-second victory over the then No. 1-ranked University of Texas on Nov. 1 averaged nearly 8.6 million households watching (a 7.5 rating), making it the network's seventh-highest rated regular season football game ever.
2007-08 Major Bowl Game TV Ratings and On-Site Attendance
The numbers don't surprise Mike Hill, associate athletic director of external affairs at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. "Some really compelling story lines have developed over the past four to five years," Hill says.
He credits parity among teams, including the Florida Gators, who are scheduled to face the Oklahoma Sooners for the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) championship on Jan. 8 in Miami (and before a national Fox network TV audience). "Now the story is the little guy can still have a shot, and that brings more support and hope that smaller schools can win. Texas Tech is a good example — they were right in the thick of it. And the University of Utah had its second undefeated season in four years."