The Advertising Solution

Apparently the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the organization that organizes the athletic programs of most American colleges, is getting weary of all that bad press lately. And so it’s going to improve its public image.

According to an article by Kunur Patel in Ad Age:

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is looking to hire a full-service agency for $1.25 million annually over two years to primarily “increase awareness of and advocacy for the positive values of intercollegiate athletics.”

A request-for-proposal document was circulated last month. Under consideration will be the NCAA’s current, and lengthy, tagline: “There are more than 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and most of us will be going pro in something other than sports.”

The NCAA’s existing PR agency, Y&R, decided not to represent the association in the future. Patel:

The RFP document states: “Market research and media analytics show that misperceptions persist and opportunities exist to inform public opinion, increase confidence in the association, and boost awareness and advocacy for the positive values of intercollegiate athletics.”

Good luck with that. The problem with the NCAA’s image is not that “misperceptions persist;” it’s that Americans are becoming aware of real, structural problems in college sports. First there’s the widespread awareness that athletes aren’t really students. Then there’s the fact that we’ve now discovered that college athletic programs often cover up criminal wrongdoing.

Ideally Americans have no particular confidence in the association, however. In fact, if all is working properly, fans should rarely, if ever, think of the NCAA at all. Most college sports fans’ interest in collegiate athletics basically extends only to the team or college they support. They think about the NCAA much the way Americans might think of, say the New England Association of Schools and Colleges: I guess it oversees something, right?

But a lot of Americans are now very familiar with the NCAA and its rules and problems than before. So NCAA now has a reputation to protect. It must work on “advocacy for the positive values of intercollegiate athletics.” That’s fame for you.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer