Vic­tory lap for UM mer­chan­dise

Fans snap up ap­parel af­ter bas­ket­ball, hockey suc­cesses

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY ANGELIQUE S. CHENGELIS The Detroit News

The post­sea­son suc­cess of the Michi­gan men’s bas­ket­ball team, par­tic­u­larly its NCAA Tour­na­ment run to the ti­tle game, gen­er­ated con­sid­er­able buzz among the Michi­gan fan base, which has an ex­tended reach across the coun­try.

Ap­parel and mer­chan­dise sales at the M Den, Michi­gan’s of­fi­cial mer­chan­dise re­tailer, were brisk com­ing off the Wolver­ines’ se­cond straight Big Ten tour­na­ment ti­tle. And af­ter Jor­dan Poole’s buzzer-beat­ing shot cat­a­pulted the Wolver­ines into the Sweet 16, the race to buy went up a notch.

“It was nuts,” M Den owner Scott Hirth said. “Fans were re­ally fired up for this team and they loved the Big Ten champs, Sweet 16 and Fi­nal Four mer­chan­dise we had.”

Ac­cord­ing to re­search from the Ann-Ar­bor based com­pany Joyce Julius & As­so­ciates, which mea­sures and an­a­lyzes all forms of me­dia, from the be­gin­ning of the Big Ten tour­na­ment through the day af­ter the na­tional cham­pi­onship game in which the Wolver­ines fell to Vil­lanova, they were men­tioned in 80,950 news me­dia sto­ries (tele­vi­sion, in­ter­net, print).

The com­pany cal­cu­lates the ex­po­sure value of a brand and trans­lates that into the amount it would have cost to ob­tain that ex­po­sure through tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing.

“If you com­pare the cu­mu­la­tive au­di­ence from the me­dia cov­er­age to the cost reach­ing the same au­di­ence through tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing, the ex­po­sure value of the cov­er­age ap­proaches an es­ti­mated $125 mil­lion,” said Eric Wright, pres­i­dent and di­rec­tor of Joyce Julius Re­search. “Ad­di­tion­ally, the na­tional game

tele­casts, from the Big Ten tour­na­ment through the (NCAA) cham­pi­onship game, eas­ily in­crease the ex­po­sure value for Michi­gan an­other $20-$30 mil­lion.”

The 80,000-plus men­tions are an “ex­tremely high” num­ber, Wright said.

What does it mean tan­gi­bly for the Michi­gan bas­ket­ball pro­gram and the ath­letic depart­ment over­all?

“It’s a nice brag num­ber for Michi­gan,” Wright said. “It doesn’t mean any­thing too tan­gi­ble, but it is im­pres­sive. No­body else in the Big Ten went that far (in the NCAA Tour­na­ment). The other pro­grams are not get­ting cov­ered those weeks, so they’re alone in the spotlight for that. It doesn’t hurt.”

Michi­gan also will get a nice chunk of change from the NCAA bas­ket­ball fund that pro­vides money dis­trib­uted to the con­fer­ences based on their per­for­mance in the tour­na­ment over a six-year rolling pe­riod. A con­fer­ence can share the total evenly among its mem­ber pro­grams but isn’t re­quired to do so.

Last year, for in­stance, each pro­gram re­ceived about $1.7 mil­lion from that fund.

Norm O’Reilly, chair of the depart­ment of sports ad­min­is­tra­tion at Ohio Univer­sity, said that gen­er­ally speak­ing, a run like the one Michi­gan’s bas­ket­ball team en­joyed can drive in­creases in school ap­pli­ca­tions and en­roll­ment.

But for the more es­tab­lished ath­letic de­part­ments, like Michi­gan’s, some­thing like this tour­na­ment suc­cess won’t im­pact en­roll­ment. Maybe Michi­gan gains a few fans, but that’s prob­a­bly about it, he said.

“There’s def­i­nitely a pos­i­tive, but it’s prob­a­bly muted,” O’Reilly said. “Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the aca­demic brand. When you’re talk­ing about Michi­gan, which al­ready has a lead­ing foot­ball team and tons of lead­ing (ath­letic) pro­grams, it’s won­der­ful brand­ing for the bas­ket­ball pro­gram, but the in­sti­tu­tion is al­ready known as an ul­tra-elite ath­lete school and aca­demic school.

“The in­cre­men­tal ben­e­fit is mod­est, sim­ply be­cause they al­ready have it.”

O’Reilly said it could po­ten­tially help in bas­ket­ball re­cruit­ing as a player weighs Michi­gan among other fi­nal­ists.

The M Den ben­e­fited in sales also be­cause the Michi­gan men’s hockey team reached the Frozen Four, so there was a high pitch of en­thu­si­asm among Michi­gan fans. There were sev­eral dou­ble­sport pro­mo­tions with shirts and pins that boosted sales, as well.

But Hirth said this bas­ket­ball Fi­nal Four run was big­ger in terms of mer­chan­dise sales than Michi­gan’s run five years ago. Why?

“A cou­ple things — bas­ket­ball is big­ger now, and the ‘John Beilein Ef­fect’ is in full swing,” said Hirth. “It’s not a sur­prise like it was five years ago. We’re good. We have a good bas­ket­ball pro­gram now, and I think the Frozen Four com­po­nent played a role. Fans were fired up.”

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