Simply because it’s smart marketing. And it’s dumb not to.
Suppose you heard about a locally-owned grocery store with good selection and prices, and you walked into the store and found nothing was labeled. You could quickly determine which was the produce section and the dairy section and the bakery, but nothing was labeled. Suppose you stopped a clerk and said “what’s with the no labels?” and the clerk said “we find that most of our loyal customers are already familiar with our products and labels are not necessary”.
That’s essentially the argument I got when I posted a Facebook status last night saying I hated that Bo refuses to put the players’ names on the back of their jerseys. My own kids ridiculed me. The female (I’m not putting her name on her jersey here) said “watch more games to become a real fan” followed by an emoticon smiley face; and the male (not putting his name on his jersey here either) “liked” the female’s comment. Another commenter (a journalist for one of the local newspapers – not putting his name on the jersey here either) said “It’s about the name on the front of the shirt”.
Oh, puh-leeze. As if that crap worked 30 years ago when it was somewhat popular.
Collegiate sports at the level the UW has decided to participate is about a hell of a lot more than the tiny percentage of “student athletes” who actually suit up and compete. It’s about putting fannies in the seats and justifying the ever-escalating ticket prices and fat TV contracts, more than about whether some coach decides he has to leave that “student athlete’s” name off the jersey so he or she remembers that there’s no “I” in team.
Collegiate and professional sports are marketed as personality battles. It’s not the Packers versus (or, as the young folks say, “verse”) the Bears. The promos the airwaves are saturated with say stuff like “Aaron Rodgers and the Packers take on Jay Cutler and the Bears”. Or “can the Rodgers-less Packers get past the Cullen Jenkins-led Giants defense” or whatever. And please don’t give me that shopworn crap about how big-time collegiate sports are not comparable to pro sports, and amateurs, and all that BS. Every week, collegiate football (and basketball) broadcasts are promoted with the use of specific player names. It’s not Texas A&M. It’s Johnny Manziel and the Aggies.
If the UW is going to continue to compete at the BCS level in Football and at the nationally-ranked level in basketball, you’d better believe Barry Alvarez knows damn well it takes BIG bucks to sustain such programs. And those programs support “the lesser sports” which can’t charge 50 bucks a seat. Those big bucks come from fat TV contracts and marketing deals all the way from which company makes the uniforms (name or no-name) the players wear, to which business’s name is most prominent on the scoreboard advertising, to sales of team merchandise (name or no-name).
Implicit is the argument that you’ve got to keep a huge fan base happy – a fan base exponentially larger than the number of people who buy tickets. So you’ve got to market. And if you want people to quickly learn to enjoy (“use”) your product, you damn well better put a name on it. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to learn your brand (UW Baskeball) and the names of your products (players). That’s the engine that drives this big collegiate sports money machine.
After all, it’s not the University of Wisconsin Basketball Arena.
It’s the Kohl Center.