notre dame & the point of advertising colleges

I was watching Michigan literally hand Notre Dame victory on Saturday afternoon (and a quick note: a pet peeve of mine is the misuse of the term “literally.” It actually means what it seems like it means so when you say something like “she is literally crazy” she better be in a mental institute otherwise you have grievously misused the term and made me upset…so when I say that Michigan literally handed Notre Dame victory I actually mean it, referencing the six turnovers the Wolverines made during the game. Language rant over)…to be fair, I watched a a lot of college football games last Saturday, but while watching the Notre Dame game I came across a college commercial that I liked.

And I usually don’t like them.

My main reason for not liking the average college commercial is the utter lack of strategy behind the execution. These spots generally have clue what they are trying to do, mainly, I would guess, because they misunderstand who their audience is.

The average college spot has soft-focus shots of the beautifully-maintained campus, pans of an exceptionally diverse student body attentive in class and laughing as they enjoy college life, and maybe a voiceover that talks about how the school is more than just the football team. It’s a video version of the college brochure…a good example is this spot for Stanford:

So not only is it bad, unoriginal creative, but they are running it before a college football audience that is overwhelmingly not in the market for college, selling the school to people who simply will not attend. What a waste.

There are two strategies that seem to make sense:

1. Pump up your alumni and friends of the school. I was watching Notre Dame in a room full of Domers. We were heading out later to watch USC with friends from Los Angeles. The bars were full of alumni of Oklahoma, Rutgers, Boston College and the like who were there watching the schools they went to.

Talk to them.

Get them all fired up.

Have, as an objective, an increase in donations from alumni, especially younger alumni who traditionally don’t give as much.

2. Especially if you are a higher-profile school, sell yourself to a larger audience…don’t target students with a brochure-like ad, but rather take the opportunity to build an emotional connection with people beyond the football team.

Tell a story that makes people know the school for more than its BCS standing.

Like Notre Dame did:

This spot, and the whole campaign, tells a story. It shows how the university is making a difference in the world. It makes the school about more than a football program and well-kept old buildings. It gives people something to believe in beyond the next game.

It makes Notre Dame serious. It makes Notre Dame about far more than football.

And I love the “what are you fighting for?” line that ties in to the Fighting Irish nickname as something that represents everyone at the school, and something that represents what the school stands for.


4 responses to “notre dame & the point of advertising colleges

  1. I love University of Minnesota’s Driven to Discover (by Olson in Mpls). As a student, I felt, like you said, like the University was actually doing something worthwhile. As an alum and a community member, I think it makes President Bruinink’s aspirations to become a top 3 research institution seem realistic, even probable. The visual unity of the campaign was awesome too:

  2. Good write-up. I had two thoughts while watching that commercial during the ND game:

    (1) I also thought that it was a surprisingly well thought-out spot, unlike the usual “Let’s have the mascot and University president high-five in front of the library!” college commercials; and

    (2) The ND spot confirmed a theory that I have long held that Charlie Weis is *literally* winning the war on terror single-handedly.

  3. Just one small point regarding the spot. ND has a deal with NBC to show all home football games, and included in that deal is ND’s access to the NBC production crew for things like promo videos and commercials like this one. Which probably explains the high production value (high for a college ad, at least), if not the strategy behind it as well.

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