College Sports Are The Current Advertising Mecca

Oregon football uniforms

Are you a major sports brand?  Do you want to get your products endorsed by some of the best athletes in the world?  Do you want to keep costs way down but still have every blogger and sportswriter in the US talking about your product?  Well, look no further than the world of elite college athletics!  Cheap and effective advertising, tons of exposure on TV, online, and in print, and it’s all on the backs of amateur athletes!  If you’re a major sports brand right now, you’re in heaven.

Oregon football uniforms

Everyone talks about Oregon and their super loud Nike football uniforms.  Everyone.  Under Armour’s deal with Maryland’s Athletic Department has recently been pushing them into the news more and more, and their latest helmet/uniform combo only brought the hype to a whole new level.  TCU, Georgia, LSU and Boise State have also all benefited from this arrangement in terms of exposure as well.  But not as much Oregon, because they are Nike’s top school, much like Maryland is Under Armour’s.

Nike and UA weren’t able to get in the NFL for years when Reebok had their strangle hold deal with the league.  But they found a way to advertise effectively for much less money, by simply making one college team their showcase squad, and I believe this is making it’s way into the lacrosse world now as well.

Last year we saw Denver get the royal treatment from Warrior.  They came out with two custom helmets for the Pioneers, and they got a ton of press for it.  Sure, Warrior also endorses the MLL, but college is still the top level of lacrosse for many people, so their desire to get into that market as well is obvious.  Denver didn’t get quite the same treatment that Oregon has gotten, but when you look at the two sports relative to each other, the perks and special equipment Denver received is pretty commensurate. 2012 looks to be no different.

What will be even more interesting to see is if Warrior switches over to Michigan as their top team, because at first this move makes a lot of sense.  But when you look closer, there are definite kinks in the rope.  Michigan is an Adidas school.  But right now, Adidas doesn’t seem to have a lacrosse line.  If Adidas doesn’t have lax gear, Michigan can use another manufacturer.  But if Adidas DOES create a lax line again, the UM lax team will be expected to use it, like all the other Wolverine squads.  For this reason alone, I find it hard to believe that Warrior will make UM their top dog.  It’s just too risky and dependent on another unpredictable brand, in this case Adidas.

The other factor to consider is that Michigan is SUCH a traditional school.  They don’t need to go wild.  They have something better to offer: history and a classy winged helmet.  So I’d rule UM out as a candidate for crazy straight off.

So I am pretty sure UM won’t be the team.  Maybe Hofstra will!?!?  That’s right, Hofstra is now a Warrior team.  By 2013 they’ll be wearing Warrior head to toe.  In 2012 they’ll be wearing Warrior shoulder to toe.  They’ll keep their Cascade helmet contract for one more year, which will be knocked down from 3 years.  And Hofstra is a great opportunity.  It’s still the heart of LI D1 lax, has a long history with the sport, and has nice bright colors to experiment with.  I can only imagine the lid Warrior will drop for Hofstra when they do make the move.  I’m thinking 4 colors: blue, yellow, white and a touch of lime green for the Relentless nod.  Hofstra has no overarching University equipment deal, so Warrior could stick with them for years.  Great team, great colors and the potential for a longstanding relationship.  Also, Hofstra hasn’t been competing like they used to, so maybe they’ll be more willing to get a little crazy.  If not Hofstra, perhaps Duke again.

If the brand with three stripes does ever decide to get back into lax, then Michigan AND Notre Dame are ripe for the picking.  If Adidas has any sense whatsoever, when they do get back into lacrosse, they will use these two schools like Nike has used Oregon to promote their brand.  And they won’t just gear them up in their newest stuff either.  They will have to make super custom gear for their top squads, and they will have to compete with the best that Warrior, UA, Nike, Brine, STX and Maverik can offer.  It’s a tall order, but also a huge opportunity.

In lacrosse, UA will be gearing out Maryland.  LPG has a little sneak peek of their gear.  Gait will stick with Virginia, but will continue to underwhelm people with their designs.  I’ve seen nothing to say that will change.  STX has a couple of squads they can work with, but Nike also has a foot in the door at a lot of those schools, and it’s going to be REALLY interesting to see which go with which brand when the inevitable split does happen.  I could see Hopkins going either way, but schools like UNC and Syracuse would probably go with Nike, as they are bigger schools, with larger overall athletic programs.

The point is that custom uniforms, big time endorsements and college athletes being treated like pros is only beginning.  More and more teams will start to look for this type of deal to elevate their status.  More and more companies will look for these opportunities to shine for cheap.  And the lines between pro and amateur will continue to blur.

This trend could continue at such a rate that you could even see smaller companies start to engage in the practice as well.  Say you’re a company like Striker Danger or ProAthletics.  Maybe you can’t afford a HUGE contract with a school like Syracuse or Duke, but you probably CAN afford to outfit lower rated teams, or teams outside of the Division 1 level.  Chris Davis of Striker Danger played at Lynchburg, so that seems like a great place to start.  The Hornets have underperformed big time for the last couple of years, so maybe 4 sets of ridiculous uniforms would help them bring in more blue chippers.  If it did, other teams would want to draw in recruits with flashy uniforms, and SD would become an even hotter commodity.

Say ProAthletics decided to sponsor UC Santa Barbara.  They could gear those guys out big time, provide a bunch of wild uniforms, socks, and maybe some helmet wraps as well.  Then BOOM!  UCSB is the best dressed team in the MCLA and everyone wants to go there for the sun and swag.  ProA becomes even more popular and then gets a tight grasp on the MCLA market.  Seems like Obviousville to me!

So what do you guys think?  Is it worth it for companies to make a big investment in ONE college lacrosse team?  Who will go with which college?  What could they do change the game?  Do flashy uniforms actually get recruits?  So many questions!!!  Hook me up with some answers!!!


  1. I don’t know if I would say companies are choosing one school to show off their stuff to as much as they are giving back to their universities in a great way. Nike and Under Armor are already extremely popular and well-known companies. Nike is or soon to be the outfitter for the NFL.

    What I think it is, is that the Nike founder went to Oregon and they’re based in Oregon. Therefore it makes sense to spoil their school…that’s what alumni do right? Same with Maryland and UA, the founder went there so why not give to them the most/best. Oregon has a great football school, Maryland=not so much, mediocre really. If UA wanted to choose a school to spotlight Auburn would be a better choice since they did win a National Title recently or even South Carolina. Both are better than Maryland; need to be in the top 25, c’mon.

    I do agree though that a small company should focus on one school in order to become larger as a whole, but these big companies don’t need to worry about that. They already have their foot in any doorway they want and are just generous alumni.

    • good points! 

      But isn’t it at least possible these guys are “good guy” alumni, who ALSO want a team to test out their newest, coolest stuff and use as a billboard to get a ton of attention?  I agree it’s a nice move by alums, but both Nike and UA definitely benefit from the agreement.  Just like Warrior does with Denver.  And Pro teams wouldn’t go for it, otherwise they might be ridiculed like the Seahawks were when they wore neon green jerseys.  You can get away with it in college.

      Then, when you look at schools like TCU/Georgia and others who get similar treatment, it becomes even less believable that they are ONLY doing it for their schools b/c they are just nice guys. It’s a business decision at some level.  Just my $.02!

      •  That all makes sense, I would agree with that to a point. To go along with what I said, I DO NOT get why Georgia gets any “treatmean”…talk about an under performing SEC team. However, when watching these teams on TV what do you hear, “WOW, look at those (Nike/UA) uniforms!” or “WOW, look at the (Oregon/Maryland) uniforms!”? Yes an avoid sports fan may notice its UA or Nike but to me, these outlandish jerseys etc, help the school not the company themselves.

        I think companies do it to promote schools more than themselves. Why would Warrior choose Denver? Because they are an up and coming lacrosse school so giving them special treatment results in more attention raising their status. Look at Oregon even for this, they were an awful football team for years but since Nike went over the top with their equipment they have become a dominant team and everyone talks about them.

        So yes maybe they do it but I would focus on what you say at the end, that is a great way for a small company to be able to showcase their full line of options. That is where I think you have a valid point and a great suggestion to smaller companies looking to get that foot in the doorway.

        • and I can caertainly see how it cuts both ways and both arguments can be made.

          I agree with you 100% that it benefits the schools greatly.  If Georgia can continue to get new, cool uniforms, we could see them rise again pretty quickly I think.  Maybe they were the only SEC team willing to take that risk?

          Oregon basically IS NikeU, so when Nike promotes Oregon, they promote Nike.  It’s hand in hand in my opinion.

          Warrior also went heavy with Denver b/c Morrow knows Tierney.  That relationship is old and in stone.

          In the end, I think it boils down to companies getting a great billboard, Universities elevating their stature, and kids getting treated like pros but not getting paid.  It’s cheaper than endorsing an entire league, and I don’t really have a problem with it.  But it’s an advertising push, clear and simple at some level.  These are top level companies pouring resources into their developing technologies and design schemes, and the college ranks are the perfect place to try them out. 

          Cuse got the Volt treatment from Nike, and they weren’t just being nice or helping Cuse.  They were helping Nike.

          Again I don’t really have a problem with any of this, but I do think it’s happening.  And worth discussing.  So I really appreciate you taking the time out to discuss it with me!

          Also appreciate that you think the smaller company model is a working idea… would love to hear more how you think that could be better implimented.  Thanks again!