Athletics and University Branding

Every University has a brand; the words, images or symbols that are associated with the name and the school. There is a lot of pressure put on universities to uphold a consistent and reputable brand.LSU v Alabama


One of the first things that prospective college students might recognize about a university’s brand is their athletic programs. Popular sports programs tend to drive a university’s school spirit as well as attract those that are sports minded because of the environment that comes along with it.  For some, athletics is a great way for universities to get their name recognized while essentially saving money on advertising. Basketball and Football programs are the two most common sports that are associated with individual universities.

penn state white out




Football programs such as Ohio State, Notre Dame, University of Michigan, Alabama, and Penn State all recognize football as being an impactful part of their brand. Students will attend those schools to be a part of the name and be a part of the experience that football brings to the school.

Ohio State fan is Not Impressed With Second Turnover Against Minnesota

So what about the Universities that don’t have a football team or that aren’t highly driven by athletics? What about UNCW? What does the lack of a football program but the presence of other D1 sports say about UNCW’s brand?

uncw football

As for the answer to these questions, I can only speak for myself and my experience here at UNCW. I believe that our school’s brand is less focused on our athletics and more on the environment that we live in. Although there is a mutual respect for our athletic programs I don’t think that our athletics are the reason why students choose UNCW.


-Jackie DiGiacomo

15 thoughts on “Athletics and University Branding

  1. It is very interesting to see how universities brand themselves. We’re doing a project in IMC one where we have to analyze a university’s brand personality based on social media. It’s interesting that our school doesn’t have a football team, but honestly, I could care less.

  2. I came to this school from a smaller school whose entire identity was driven on athletics. I think the brand of this school, upon mentioning it to my friends at my old school, was the UNCW was a chill school. I believe that “chill” or “laid-back” may be the accidental but somewhat accepted brand of the school.

  3. Even though it would be cool to have one, I do not think that UNCW’s lack of a football team is detrimental to our brand or school spirit. We have so many other reasons to have pride in our school, including our beautiful campus, impressive academics, and numerous successful sports teams. Besides, at the larger universities who tend to base their image on the achievements of their football teams, the attitudes and activities that surround the games are generally associated with alcohol and wild parties. I’m not saying that we have less underage drinking because we don’t have a football team, but it does give students one less reason to do so.

  4. I think this article is super interesting. I honestly never looked at sports or that aspect when choosing a school but I do know that it is a huge sway in how some people pick which school to attend. I think it is interesting that UNCW still has such a popular brand to everyone despite the fact that they do not have a football team. UNCW ‘s location itself is enough to brand people to come here.

  5. I completely agree with the fact that UNCW is more branded with its environment rather than athletics. When I think of Alabama the first thing that comes to mind is sports. When I say UNCW I think the beach and pretty campus. I believe that even if we had a football team we would still be branded through our environment (like Coastal Carolina).

  6. I completely agree with what Jackie wrote in her post. I come from a background that has been completely dominated by sports. I was fortunate to get to play on the number one high school soccer team in the nation as well as compete around the nation on a team in the US soccer developmental academy. I visited UNCW when I was a Junior as a prospect for the Men’s soccer team. I had visited a few other schools prior and one thing I quickly noticed was that not many students took special notice in the athletes as we walked around UNCW’s campus. I was not complaining, I do not think we should be treated differently because we can kick a ball, it really is not all that special. After coming back to my hometown people often ask what do we do without a football team during the first semester? After being here, I honestly kind of forgot about college football. The fact that we are at the beach makes it easy to shift our attention more on weather and the environment rather than to focus on sports. Unfortunately, the lack of unity when it comes to fans takes away from the camaraderie as well as the recognition for the hard work each individual athlete puts in at UNCW. Everyone has a choice as to where they attend college. If you are looking to be a part of a fan section at big sporting events, UNCW may not be the place for you. But, if you enjoy a relaxed and echo-friendly driven campus feel, UNCW will suit you well.

  7. Jackie, i like all of the information that you choose to show here. While our school does focus on the environment, I do disagree with the fact that many students don’t choose UNCW for it’s athletic programs. Just consider the huge uproar that was had when the Men’s basketball team made the NCAA tournament, and now every year tons of people are eagerly looking forward to it. While maybe in the past our athletics wasn’t in the forefront, I believe those times are changing.

  8. Jackie,

    I really enjoyed reading this post because you’re right, athletics are a great way to help brand an university. Using sports to help brand a university is genius, especially for schools that really play well. From what I understand, each round that a university plays in for the ACC tournament, they will receive an X amount of money for an X amount of consecutive years. This is extremely helpful for schools that really prosper in athletics. It can also be helpful to market and brand the university without spending their own personal resources.

  9. I think about this a lot actually! Especially around homecoming season. SO many students seem to think of their college experience revolving around sports and it seems UNCW doesn’t follow those rules. Is it because we don’t have football? Or because of how we branded after it not having one? There are plenty of schools that don’t have football but sports are still much more integral than ours. It’s a very interesting thought. I love that we focus more on the overall environment. I for one , prefer it that way.

  10. I believe that this post is very interesting. I do agree that a lot of students attend schools for the atmosphere that comes along with the sports programs. I disagree that majority of the students attend UNCW for the environmental aspects, or what I have read in the comments as being a “chill” school. I personally believe that a large majority of schools with in the UNC system have students that attend their school for basketball. Here at UNCW there is a big culture around basketball, especially after this past years March Madness appearance. Regardless, the initial statement is correct that most students identify with the athletic programs and that is a determining factor in if that student attends their university.

  11. As a huge sports fan and a student at UNCW, I always think about “What if?” when it comes to a football team. I do definitely see where you’re coming from when the school (UNCW) focuses more on its environment/location, than on the athletics side of things. A school with a huge football program like Ohio State or Alabama is cool, but they do not have the beach right down the street either.

  12. Athletics are a great way to brand a school, when they have a good team. Football is definitely one of the biggest ways a school can demonstrate their brand and school spirit. But because we do not have football does not mean we are lacking of school spirit. Our school has come a long way with basketball and our brand has been affected by this. Our students are becoming more school spirited with every year that comes by. Great thoughts!

  13. Good post! I think a lot of these really big NCAA schools truly live off their sports as to where UNCW feels more like we live off our location and surroundings. I do think a football team for UNCW could only help the school overall as well as the city but might also bring some negatives along with it such as increased traffic.

  14. Currently working on a project related to a Universities Brand so this post instantly got my attention. Its cool to get to see how Universities brand themselves and how they use Athletics to do so. When it comes to UNCW not having a football team, I will cry my sorrows away while I am on the BEACH!

  15. I enjoy that UNCW is represented by the overall aspect of the school and not just by the sports that a lot of colleges and universities are known for. UNCW is different in a good way. Focusing on the environment and not on sports isn’t always a bad thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s