At first people seemed to be scratching their head. The ACC or the Big Ten trying to put roots down in New York, the home of the Big East? Who would care other than some alumni? New York us not a college town, it’s a pro town.
However as seen this week, the ACC and the Big Ten from a brand standpoint do consider New York a college sports business town, and their overtures to media, to Wall Street and to Madison Avenue were made very clear as conference realignment took place this week. The ACC spent the early part of the week in and around the media capital of the world, ringing bells at Nasdaq, visiting network partners, calling on brands who want to engage in the college space, not just with marketing types but with coaches who can engage and tell stories and talk positively about the relationship the new face of the league can have. Jim Boeheim rang bells and shook hands with prominent Syracuse alums all too eager to talk about his team, now going from the snowbelt to tobacco road, and what that can mean for the school from a dollars and branding standpoint, as well as from a W and L perspective. Rutgers, now moving on from scandal du hour, is touting visits of Michigan and Ohio State and new relationships, not looking back on old ones.
The leagues themselves will leverage these relationships and now talk aggressively of bringing elite events…football, post season basketball, even other sports with large alumni followings like lacrosse and even baseball, into the market for high level competition. No it won’t be the daily presence that a Big East will still have in New York, rather it will be the best of the best, and that’s what New York enjoys. No, the Big Ten and the ACC won’t leave their close ties in the markets they are in, rather they say they will amplify their outreach now by embracing New York and the new groups of alumni and supporters with their new members who have always been here, but have been hard to wrangle without a consistent tie. Is it a corporate wakeup call for the Big East? It sure is. Mike Krzyzewski is now doing regular community visits in and around Gotham and rest assured Big Ten and ACC media and brand partners will be hawking all things about their new member schools regularly around the big dollars of the New York area. Conference tournaments now have the Barclays Center and the Prudential Center to call home, not just MSG, the home of The Big East for so long. Last year the Pac 12 made noise about being more east coast friendly, but the reality is with no schools close by, that is very hard to do. With a Rutgers and a Syracuse, the ACC and Big Ten have some anchor in the region to leverage. Now that is not to say suddenly everyone in New York will be on board every day. Piscataway and Syracuse are not Brooklyn and Queens, and the market is still very fragmented for the casual fan. However for those leagues now to be able to be within earshot of corporate dollars consistently means a great deal, and using those ties to propel the overall league brand is a big boost, one that probably was never adequately used when the schools were in the Big East.
It is a smart business move to be so aggressive with their new assets by the Big Ten and the ACC and it should serve as a warning shot to those in the space who have been less aggressive and have called the area home for some time. College athletics is big business and getting bigger, and two of its largest players have now put down roots in the Apple.
Yes New York is a pro town. But college sports business is now more professionally orchastrated than ever before, and if this past week is any example, the ACC and Big Ten will be in the fight for attention, and dollars, in Gotham more than ever before.