Since John Calipari was named head coach of the University Kentucky basketball team nearly 4 months ago, I’ve written a great deal about what Calipari’s arrival means for the power of the UK brand. The brand had suffered significantly over the past 5 years as Tubby Smith was on the way out, Billy Gillispie did what he could suck all the fun out of the game of basketball, and poor basketball was played throughout.
It’s certainly true that the UK brand is back and stronger than ever before and it’s largely because of John Calipari. However, most of what I have written has shown a lack of awareness of the fact that there is a brand surrounding Calipari that is a force to be reckoned with on its own.
The platform that is given the coach of UK due to the magnitude of the position was undoubtedly one of the big attractions of the job to Calipari. He may not have anticipated having over 460,000 followers on Twitter before the end of July, but he knew what having the rabid fan base of the Big Blue could mean for him.
The name Kentucky may have helped John Calipari land the tremendous 2009 recruiting class that he was able to cobble together in a short amount of time, but let’s face it: John Calipari will get big time players almost no matter where he coaches. John Calipari is not going to be able to win much bigger at UK than he has the past 5 years in West Tennessee, but coaching at UK is going to allow John Calipari to become one of the faces of college basketball to an extent impossible at Memphis.
At Kentucky, John Calipari is going to be able to have his team play on ESPN and CBS all season long and not be ignored during a lackluster non-conference schedule.
At Kentucky, John Calipari instantly becomes highly sought after for endorsements, both in the Bluegrass and nationally (see EA’s upcoming NCAA ’10 ad campaign).
At Kentucky, John Calipari becomes Nike’s primetime college basketball coach, with the power to form a partnership with a guy like LeBron James.
At Kentucky, John Calipari has a legion of fans to command with Twitter as the centerpiece of that interaction. Potential marketing partners of UK and Calipari salivate at the opportunity to be positively mentioned to a half million willing listeners.
The announcement of his website’s debut tomorrow at 11:30 is the latest step in the building of his own brand. No one really knows what Calipari is going to do with the website, but you know he’s going to generate a lot of traffic…sustaining it will be another matter. One thing I do know is that John Calipari understands marketing, marketing of both himself and UK basketball.
John Calipari also understands the impact of the around the clock sports coverage, the internet, and social networking on his job. The lines that used to be drawn between marketing, branding, and recruiting no longer exist. Calipari has the power to reach recruits, fans, and anyone else who wants to listen all at once and that is exactly what he does everyday with his Twitter account and will now do with his website as well.
They say that players don’t commit to a school, they commit to a coach, and if that really is the case, you have to feel good about UK’s chances with any big time player.
A couple quick notes before I close:
-The other news yesterday was the announcement of the SEC network by ESPN.
Unfortunately, this piece of news sounds bigger than it really is. Basically, it’s going to be Jefferson Pilot/Lincoln Financial Sports with an ESPN logo. For football, the network will broadcast one Saturday game just as JP/LF Sports did the last number of year. The station will not be a stand alone channel with national distribution, rather local channels will be able to pick up on their broadcasts (WAVE 3 in Louisville, WKYT in Lexington).
-Officially confirming that football season is nearly upon us, SEC Media Days began today. We will keep you updated on any significant happenings.
-The majority of college basketball coaches and recruiting gurus have descended this week on Las Vegas, as many of the top high school players will play in one of the last big summer events. According to Gary Parrish, Josh Selby’s decommitment is all the buzz among the coaching community, as there is quite a bit of teeth gnashing going on about Worldwide Wes’ involvement.
UK is widely assumed to be heavily involved with Selby, but it’s not like a commitment is forthcoming. As a matter of fact, we don’t even have confirmation that UK has been in contact.
John Calipari, of course, is in Vegas this week with 12 year old son Brad in tow. Calipari has said it takes creativity to find ways to spend time with family. However, I’m not sure ‘creativity’ is the word that comes to mind when I think of a 12 year old in Vegas.