Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why Bo Should Put The Players Names On Their Uniforms

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.


  1. You are spot on with this assessment, but then that's me talking and what do I know....I think Bo has worked himself into a corner on this one and is waiting for the paint to dry....maybe chancellor Alvarez can help him save face and drive the issue as for the good of the UW Sports Program....kind of like white we are going to try names on the backs of the uniform, seeing most "big-time" programs have already chosen this option and identifying the player by name rather than number will give not only the fan but the casual observer a solution to the identity crisis....and personally, it makes my watching of the game that much more enjoyable....let's believe that we will see this happen!

  2. Bo puts a quality team on the court year after year. They've never finished worse than 4th in the Big 10, with Bo as coach. I would rather suffer the inconvenience of learning which player goes with which number for the first few games, then go back to watching a losing team. People tend to forget what it was like for so many years.

    1. No argument on the first part, Anony - Bo puts a quality team on the court year after year. But that issue has absolutely nothing to do with putting names on jerseys. You're OK with the "inconvenience"; I'm not OK with it, because it relates to growing the "audience" for Badger hoops, perhaps not to the extent as the W-L record, but it's an important facet nonetheless. Notice that the football team, the hockey team, and the Badger women's hoops team ALL have names on their jerseys. And, when/if Bo's team makes the big dance in March, the NCAA will force him to put names on the jerseys. I think the Big 10 will force him to do that for the tournament, too - can't remember. Come to think of it, maybe that's why Bo's teams don't go deep into the NCAA tournament....having their names on their jerseys causes the players to forget how they got there......(sarcasm)

  3. Well let's see here...what top basketball programs put the names on the jerseys, Well, there's Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State...I coould go on, but in terms of image, UW looks a little stodgy, like Penn State football with those high school uniforms during the Paterno years. But the team itself looked great against Florida from my seat in the University of Wisconsin Basketball Arena Tuesday night, it was great getting a victory over a quality non conference opponent.

  4. Welcome back Tim. Long time, no post.

    In the spirit of compromise, which is so sorely lacking these days, I propose to amend your motion. The names can be left off the jerseys. However, all Badger hoops players will no longer be forced to get the same hair cut, apparently from a barber who got his license sometime around 1950. Players will be free to have any hairstyle they wish, and thus will be more readily identifiable. I miss The Bruiser already!

    1. Thanks - and, I like the idea of allowing someone other than Joe the 1950 barber doing the players' "styles"! Like you, I miss The Bruiser, too.....guys like that really make a team so more "likeable". Sort of like Joe Panos, the football lineman from several years ago - after you heard his family story, how could you not like the guy?

  5. Replies
    1. Listen to any sportscast on local radio, national radio, local TV or national TV: it's a guarantee that if the sports announcer is under 30, he or she will say "verse" rather than versus. Guarantee.