NCAA Schools’ Latest Promotional Effort? Branded Beer
While we can soon expect to see further information on the NCAA's plans to allow student-athletes to monetize their names and images, many schools are hopping glad over another means to generate cash, namely, branded beer. According to The New York Times, more than 20 universities are brewing up a good financial time by licensing their own beer, with the piece centering mostly on the ways smaller schools are using it to market themselves.
— Billy Witz (@billywitz) November 1, 2019
We find ourselves at an interesting point in the evolution of college sports, with yesterday offering Promo Marketing an opportunity to look at the merch possibilities from the NCAA’s monetization-centric ruling. While many schools’ athletic departments enjoy continual clout thanks to their programs’ success, there are plenty of others who must be creative to earn a buck and possibly go from who’s-that status to a more stable presence among their more accomplished peers.
With respect to that, the New York Times looked at how the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is making great use of local resources to become a player in the branded beer business, partnering with a local brewery to produce and distribute a pair of licensed beers called Ragin’ Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Ale and Ragin’ Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Lager. The beer has generated $1.2 million in sales since 2015, with the university earning $140,000 from its standard 12 percent royalty fee on licensed merchandise.
What's most interesting here is the school's approach, which eschews overt Louisiana-Lafayette branding anywhere on the bottles or packaging. Via the New York Times story:
For starters, the name of the school is barely mentioned: It only appears on the bottom of a six-pack of bottles, where it is noted that some of the proceeds go to support academics, research and athletics at U.L. Lafayette. Instead, the emphasis is on the region, with a local brewer using local ingredients (rice for the ale comes from Crowley, honey for the lager is from Breaux Bridge) and the marketing cachet of the school’s unique nickname, the Ragin’ Cajuns.
This has helped keep it moving in bars and beer shops from Beaumont, Tex., to New Orleans.
“You put Cajun on anything and it sells in southwest Louisiana,” Blaine Broussard, the president of Nunu’s Markets, a small grocery chain in Louisiana, said while he was tailgating before Louisiana-Lafayette’s loss to Appalachian State last month.
As we explored yesterday, the whole idea of letting student-athletes benefit from their existence as performers has stirred up plenty of controversy, so, therefore, it would be natural to presume that schools’ interest in building coffers through branded beer sales might lead to some furrowed brows, too. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has been taking in proceeds from the purchases for four years and is stimulating not only its economy but that of Louisiana in general.
The New York Times piece, as noted earlier, mentions that more than 20 schools are marketing their branded beer creations, which would mark a solid jump from the 11 that Sports Business Daily documented in September. That obviously indicates that the stigma against schools marketing themselves through alcoholic beverages is declining, and makes us wonder if we'll be seeing more sites going after revenue through partnerships with breweries.
We are also left to ponder which institutions might join the list, which already includes some highly renowned locations. Will more under-the-radar schools like the University of Louisiana at Lafayette drink up the glory and serve as the majority of the entrants into the beer-loving world, or will extremely well-off higher learning spots make the grade and cash in?