The Longhorn Athletics Brand: Lessons for Business

Monitor changes > Increase favorable associations > Leverage existing affect > Avoid distractions.

Ben Bentzin, lecturer in the McCombs department of marketing, spoke to gathered alumni at the 5th Annual Alumni Business Conference at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center at The University of Texas at Austin. His topic, lessons learned from the success of the Longhorn athletics brand over the past two decades. These are just the highlight notes. The full video presentation will be posted later.

  • Over the past twelve years UT Austin athletics has grown from a $21 million annual budget in 1997 to $138 million today. One difference is that women’s sports, the Erwin Center and other program elements have been added into the budget since 1997.
  • The Big 12 agreement was a better fit for Texas (relative to Southwest Conf.), in part because it provided a 50-50 split of TV revenues. Half is shared equally across the conference, and half is based on the individual team’s performance in attracting viewership. That was a better deal for Texas, which traditionally draws high interest nationally.
  • In 2008 Texas generated $20 million more than the next highest earner, Ohio State.
  • Last year Longhorn football generated a $64.9M surplus vs. a $6.9M surplus for basketball. All other men’s and women’s sports generated a surplus of $14.6M. UT baseball broke even.
  • Positive spiral: Improving Team Performance > Revenue from Sponsorships > Investment in Improvements > Back to Team performance.
  • UT invests money in 20 teams vs. average of 24 teams for top 10 programs. Focusing funds to smaller number of teams. No gymnastics, for example.
  • UT is one of only two NCAA Division 1 schools with separate athletic directors for men’s and women’s team.
  • UT Austin is considered the model for branding of athletics. Monitor changes > Increase favorable associations > Leverage existing affect > Avoid distractions. Winning is the key to continued brand strength.

What business lessons can be learned from the Longhorn Athletics Brand? Bentzin summed up five key points:

  1. Narrow the focus of the organization.
  2. Focus on measures of excellence for the few things you will do very well.
  3. Sustained, consistent effort is key to brand success.
  4. Winning is contagious, so identify where you can win and leverage those wins to build reputation.
  5. Hire stars who are recognized for being the best in their field.

More from Bentzin on marketing and brands.

Other Branding Resources:


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