I heard a proclamation today by a college football recruiting expert on a sports talk radio show: "Today is Christmas Day for college football fans." The gifts being unwrapped by football programs across the country are signees that make up their 2014 football recruiting classes. Fans who have closely followed recruiting news for the past several months anxiously await to find out how their favorite team's crop of new players stack up against rivals and other schools. There are no guarantees that a five-star signee today will lead his team to glory. Out of curiosity, a look back in time five years reveals that Rivals.com named Duron Carter one of the top five Impact Freshmen for 2009. Carter spent time at Ohio State, Alabama, and Florida Atlantic, never realizing the promise many Buckeyes fans held for him.
Why the Fascination?
Rampant interest in college football recruiting is nothing new; it predates social media. Online message boards and sports talk radio shows have been prime channels for highly involved fans to ask, learn, brag, and gripe about recruits their favorite team won or lost. The deep interest in college football recruiting (and similar events like the NFL and NBA drafts) comes under a category of what can be called The Consumption of What Might Be. Think about the behaviors in terms of time spent consuming (e.g., listening to, reading, or talking about recruiting) and personal investment fans have with the process- what other consumption rituals do we have for which we are so highly involved? Chances are you do not go to similar lengths when deciding which model of automobile or brand of jeans to buy.The difference can be traced back to a concept discussed in Chapter 1 of Sports Marketing: Sports brands enjoy an affinity advantage over other types of products. Highly involved fans have an emotionally-based connection with their favorite team that adds meaning to their fandom and can be a source of personal pride.
Feed the Appetite
As National Signing Day 2014 comes and goes, how should sports marketers prepare for 2015 (strange to say given that it is a year away, but discussions will start soon)? Highly involved fans interested in college football recruiting represent a market segment that should be tapped to leverage their affinity. Teams are restricted by NCAA regulations about what can be said about recruits and prospects, so the appetite for recruiting information must be fed by media. Traditional media outlets as well as sports media companies specializing in college sports such as Rivals.com and 247Sports are fans' lifelines for consuming the recruiting process. And, the fervent interest in college recruiting begs the question of whether there are entrepreneurial ventures on the horizon that will bring new value to the recruiting space? If there is it is because there is a market opportunity to provide information and services in ways that better serve college recruiting fans than present offerings can deliver.
The Future of Recruiting Consumption?
What do you think is the future of college recruiting consumption? Will it grow in fan interest and media coverage, or is it destined to be a pastime enjoyed by a niche of college sports fans?