Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Building awareness, a ubiquitous opportunity

A recent article on Governing.com entitled Eds, Meds and Urban Revival outlines the leading role that colleges and universities play as economic engines in cities across the nation. This role takes many forms - employer, business and government partner, and medical provider to name a few. But unlike the auto industry, steel plants, or nearly any other type of business, colleges and universities and their associated medical facilities have substantial budgets that are expended in the local community and have the important added benefit of being highly unlikely to relocate.

Further, unlike "regular" employers, colleges and universities can serve as a rallying point for the broader community through its athletic programs.

Organizations all over the country, especially non-profits, are continually focused on the ubiquitous concept of "building awareness" - for their cause, for their brand, and for attention in a crowded marketplace of ideas. Athletics is one of the most easily understood and identifiable awareness building entities available. Universities and colleges have unique opportunities not available to any other non-profit organization via their athletic program should they choose to pursue them. Using athletics as a vehicle to "build awareness" about an entire institution (as opposed to just itself) can pay increasing dividends to the sponsoring university and local community in these difficult economic times. And unlike a manufacturing job that is moved overseas or a professional sports team that leaves one city for another to obtain more favorable lease terms on a stadium or arena - a local college team isn't going anywhere.

While critics of college athletics sometimes lament the dollars that are "diverted" from academics to athletics, these dollars:
  • are a wise investment in employee and community morale,
  • can increase enthusiasm for partnerships between the university and government or other area businesses, and
  • can create a highly stable community building entity that most organizations would trade their 503(c) status to have available to help "build awareness".
- ultimate sports insider

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