Thumb-Stopping Collegiate Recruiting
The competition level for college recruiting is at an all-time high, and coaches and athletic departments must become more creative in how they position their programs to land top-level student-athletes. Institutions with a long history—think USC, Notre Dame, or Alabama—can rely on an established past. Smaller schools often have stiffer competition, and just as our saturated social feeds need a “wow” factor, so do learning institutions to imprint memorable experiences on recruits. As technology advances and we expect more and more visual communication, research shows that we respond favorably to quick bursts of information that can be absorbed quickly. Branding strategies for smaller schools must be impactful, grab a busy student’s attention, and compel them to share.
This doesn’t exclude larger schools from implementing larger-scale experiential graphics programs. In a cathedral stadium that seats 90,000-plus spectators, you still want to feel part of something. Recognition of past players can help achieve that effect. California Polytechnic State University’s nationally recognized baseball program boasts nearly 100 years of historical achievements and has launched more than one dozen major league players: Cardinals short stop Ozzie Smith graduated in 1974. Students who want to follow Smith’s path to success—maybe even by following in his exact steps—can learn from a graphic representation of that storied history. Recruiting strategies often include integration of visual stimuli into new multi-million dollar facilities that highlight current athletes, historic program victories, and transcendent players who have advanced their game at a professional level. When executed effectively, branding can have a broad and deep influence on recruiting and a program’s perception of notoriety.
Effective branding for a collegiate athletic program should also embrace social media preferences in the recruiters’ target age demographic of 16-to-20 years old. Athletes are more influential in today’s society than ever before, from marketing to politics. Student athletes are digitally connected not only to teammates, friends, family, and fans, but also to their rivals. When an athlete shares images from a campus visit or recruiting event, his or her post provides an opportunity to promote the distinct culture of a campus and its athletic program. This can pique interest from other top athletes, and build credibility with athletes and fans alike.
Crafting a Long-Lasting Narrative
Just as institutions change their approach to storytelling, so do coaches. In the past, athletic programs may have hinged on a life of game practice and rigorous training, but coaches today want to talk about design strategies to tell a story that attracts top recruits. As a design firm, we focus on art and experience, but many of us are also big sports fan. Coaches and facilities directors need to find a design partner that can understand and effectively communicate both angles.
When designed with student-athletes’ tastes in mind, experiential graphics on a campus can be a strong factor in attracting and inspiring commitment from recruits who connect viscerally with an athletic department. Not only do these environmental moments live in a facility’s permanent location, but thanks to the ever-expanding world of social media, they live in the virtual world, as well.
Interested in how design can affect the collegiate and sporting experience? Principal and Global Higher Education Leader Stuart Rothenberger believes that design can contribute to a vibrant student body, and Principal Bob Carlson argues that athletic facilities can build community.