ESPN’s College GameDay coming to Tucson marks a rite of passage for University of Arizona athletics.
The UA brand is sticking.
After years of constructing the university’s reputation, Athletic Director Greg Byrne has hit a landmark with GameDay’s appearance. It part of a long-term strategy to extend the recognition of the Block A around the nation.
And by all accounts, he has been wildly successful.
A dramatic removal of a head coach and the appointment of a former Big-10 head coach in 2011 kick started the UA brand revolution.
When Byrne snagged Rich Rodriguez in 2011, construction for the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility was scheduled to break ground at the beginning of 2012. With a new coach and facility, Byrne was forging the groundwork for progress.
The University of Arizona basketball program has held serious weight in the Division 1 athletics conversation for nearly a century while the football program has had only fleeting success. Byrne seized the reputation that basketball already has and began building on it to breed a flourishing football program.
“There is a clear strategy that Byrne is following. Starting with the facility and Rich Rod. When he became athletic director, things started happening,” said Chelsea Suitos, an associate buyer and an expert in brand marketing for Nike Sportswear in Portland.
Byrne, Rodriguez, and the marketing staff are all working toward the same goal: spreading the UA brand, increasing the amount of viewership and creating long-term fans. With videos like, “Licence to Thrill” and “Nae-Nae” receiving nearly 350,000 hits on YouTube, the program is attracting nationwide attention.
There are 39 registered Arizona Alumni Chapters scattered throughout the nation gathering at local bars and restaurants to watch UA athletics compete. Seven of the chapters reside in state. Phoenix, Flagstaff, and towns like Wilcox and Yuma all have local Arizona fans that gather to watch Football.
As the Cats are transitioning from mediocre to reigning Pac 12 Southern Division Champions, fans are taking notice nationwide.
According to the New York City ‘MetroCats’ Chapter President, Tom Rose, the influx in membership has increased since the football team has began to succeed, “More people are actually showing up to the events we put together. We are seeing more enthusiasm for football game day than we used to. Usually its only in late fall and winter that we can fill a bar. But after last football season, the Wildcat fans are flocking.”
With flocking fans across the nation and attendance for home games climbing, Byrne’s master plan the expand his brand is working.
Strategic decisions made by Byrne and the people he surrounds himself with, like the University of Arizona marketing staff, the UA brand is recognized nationally.
“The best thing we can do is to keep the momentum going,” says the Dan Heck, UA associate director of marketing.
“If there is a big moment, like beating Oregon last year, it is capitalizing on that as much as possible. Being as visible as possible, not just in Tucson but nationally, whether its social media or national media outlet, just have to position ourselves so that we have something ready to launch after big win.”
Hallie Wilson is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News, a service with the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Contact her at email@example.com