People often fear what they don't understand; because if we, as humans, do not know what something is, we automatically assume the worst out of it. The same can be said about many of the detractors to Danny White and the UB Athletics department's New York-centric re-branding strategy; many are quick to denounce the action saying that UB is "abandoning" Buffalo, when in reality, its not, its simply part of the NYBI, a plan of action to put UB at the top of the food chain among collegiate athletics departments in New York State, taking it away from a certain citrus-y school two hours to the east....
Here is a description of the NYBI from the Bulls Blue and White Fund website:
The University at Buffalo New York Bulls Initiative (NYBI) will serve as a comprehensive initiative to cultivate a local and national presence and generate an everlasting sense of loyalty to our athletic brand. As the largest most comprehensive public university in the state, we are well positioned to establish ourselves as one of the nation's most formidable athletic departments. In doing so, the NYBI will enhance four strategic priorities: Image, Partnerships, Resources and Facilities.
So, to try and clear the air, I'll run through each of the four strategic priorities (Image, Partnerships, Resources, Facilities) and talk about what projects are taking place and give my own take on what's being done.
Many of the top college programs, like the best businesses, have logos and branding that are easily recognizable by the everyday person, even if they aren't a college athletics fan. For example, if you were to show someone a picture of the University of Texas - Austin logo, the famous burnt orange longhorn, most people would recognize it. Now, if you were to show that same person the interlocking UB logo, chances are they may not know what school it represents.
The athletics department has done a couple of things to help remedy this: first, they've introduced the school's new mark the infamous "State University of New York at Buffalo" logo that can be found anywhere from the hardwood of Alumni Arena, to the jersey Joe Licata puts on every Saturday, and, as of July 9th the same mark will appear at midfield of UB stadium. Second, are advirtisemnts around the greater Buffalo-Niagara area. While at a Buffalo Bisons game earlier this year I saw a billboard with Joe Licata on it promoting the upcoming football season, and there are several other locations around the area where ads can be found.
UB's image makeover is not yet complete, the department still has a long way to go to really achieve the national brand recognition that its seeking. I'll admit that I'm not the biggest fan of the plain text mark, but it gives UB an identity that it has sorely lacked for a long time by rooting itself in Buffalo, but expanding to a wider market.
Vital to the success of any college athletics department are corporate and media partnerships. UB has partnered with several corporate heavy-hitters such as Nike, Pepsi, and Buffalo-based New Era Caps. I cannot understate how important the partnership with New Era is especially given that current New Era CEO Pete Augustine is a UB Alumni; think of it this way, Nike is to Oregon what New Era is to Buffalo.
UB has also been busy developing media partnerships both in Buffalo, and nationally. UB has partnered with radio giants Bloomberg Radio, and WFAN 660am of New York City to broadcast UB athletics events to a broader audience. While gaining a foothold in the radio market nationally, UB has also partnered with WFAN 1270am, and 106.5 WYRK for the tailgate concert series, in Buffalo to gain a stronger radio presence in the Queen City. UB is also developing media ties with sports giant ESPN, which means that UB games can be seen in nearly 98 million homes across America when they are featured on ESPN or ESPN 2. Locally, WGRZ has partnered with UB as the "Official Station of the UB Bulls" which will air UB Bulls games, and features such as the "Bobby Hurley Show".
From my perspective this is the place where the athletics department has hit a home run, but not many people are talking about it. Growing up in the Albany area before moving to Buffalo to attend UB, the only time I could ever see a UB football game on TV was if one just so happened to be on TimeWarner Cable Sports, and the picture quality was always very disappointing. But now it's great to see games on ESPN so I don't have to sit on the ESPN gametracker when I'm not able to attend games. And I'll give credit where credit is due, Danny White is one hell of a promoter, with the tailgate concert series and the media blitz he really has gone all out to make sure that the stands are filled at every UB game.
In the end, most things in life come down to cold hard cash, and the UB athletics department is no different. Money is needed to help continue to grow the program and continue the partnerships that are vital to its success. So how does the department get the money that it needs? Here's what the Bulls Blue and White Website has to say:
The NYBI will serve as a platform for generating revenue and philanthropic support. By focusing on building brand equity and fan loyalty, the NYBI will realize increases in ticket sales, donations and corporate sponsorships thereby strengthening the long-term fiscal health of UB Athletics.
In short, the department will rely on donations, ticket sales, and corporate sponsorships to buoy the cost of maintaining the programs and upgrades that are being implemented.And according to the department on Twitter it seems like things are going well:
I don't have too much to say, but the fact that season ticket sales are up, and donations are up must mean that people are buying into what the department is trying to do, which can only be a good thing.
A few months ago the department released their Facilities Master Plan outlining all of the proposed upgrades and additions to the athletic facilities in Amherst. I won't go through each capital project, but the highest priority projects are:
- The East Club Danny White's vision for UB stadium revolves around the East Club which is a premium/club style seating area the likes of which have never been seen at UB Stadium. The East Club's purpose is twofold: frist, to provide luxury style accommodations to fans, and second, to act as a constant revenue stream for the department and will allow reinvestment from revenue back into other programs and capital projects.
- UB Field House: One of the things that some MAC schools have that UB lacks is a an all-purpose field house that can be used for football, soccer, among many other sports. The field house would be situated near UB Stadium, and would be a blue chip recruiting tool that will draw interest from recruits and help train UB's current athletes.
Facilities can make or break recruiting, and by improving the existing facilities at UB, and adding a field house among several other things, I think it will provide a good boost to recruiting and will help anchor UB as one of the top schools in the MAC.
Now if only UB could partner with the Buffalo Bills and work on a joint stadium in Amherst.....(One can dream right?)
For a full look at the capital projects the athletics department has planned, or has already completed take a look at the Facilities Master Plan by clicking HERE.
I think our very own Conrad put it best:
...many people will see the State on the field and wonder which city represents such a great State so proudly? These people will do research to get to the heart of the matter, and will find our fair Queen City has begun to rule the State as the King City has abdicated college football.
While the NYBI may be taken by some as an effort to ditch the city of Buffalo, it's quite the opposite. Without the city of Buffalo the NYBI could never happen; Danny White has done so much to root the athletics department within the city while expanding it to represent the state as a whole.
I hope this was a clear overview of what the athletics department is trying to achieve and what they are doing, there seems to have been a lot of confusion among people who aren't in tune with the inner workings of the athletics department and I think clearing the air about the projects going on will help make same people believers in what is happening.