The modern era of sports, no matter the level, is all about branding. Like any other company in the business world, branding of a sports team or individual is all about identifying, giving it a reputation. The minute the brand is worn or administered, it becomes something of the identity of the person wearing it, a way to categorize and affiliate with so many others who also wear it for the same reason.
Sports Illustrated recently posted an article about branding in college football and how it goes well beyond uniforms. It's a great piece talking about the business of college sports, how teams are now as identifiable as Honda or Coca-Cola. It also gives a team capsule of every Power Conference football program and how they're branded, if they're branded properly, and what they can do to improve their image.
Like any other school in college football, Boston College has a brand. While not as large as a school like Florida State, Alabama, or Oregon, the Eagles are a brand unto themselves. They have a product placement in society, and it's something worth analyzing to see if it is being capitalized on in the proper fashion.
According to the SI piece, this is what BC works with as their brand:
A team from an academically rigorous Jesuit university that frequently punches above its weight through careful recruiting and tough play on both lines of scrimmage.
The piece goes onto say that this is the perfect branding for Boston College, saying there's nothing wrong with knowing what you are and accepting it. The institution is a niche-type school, smaller than the large public universities. Its staff knows what segment of the population to appeal to and knows what kind of student-athlete works towards success. It then has to take a particular game plan and build around that student-athlete.
That's a perfect description of what Boston College is. If you think about Steve Addazio's description of the school, he often talks about being a "tough, rugged football program" that emphasizes teamwork. Although recruiting is dramatically improving, it still doesn't touch the "pick of the litter" classes as schools like Alabama or Florida State. If he needs a wide receiver or a defensive back, he needs to recruit them, not just go out and offer them. And if BC needs a particular athlete, they need to devise a coaching strategy around that type of athlete, moving with the times year after year in order to build the team up for success.
For people outside of BC, that's a school that doesn't necessarily have the national recognition but is able to hang with the "big boys." If you think about the past couple of years, the Eagles were exactly that. They didn't win 12 games, which for the past couple of years was fine, but they also weren't frequently blown out. They were a team that can hang with anyone, and if you asked fans of Clemson or Florida State, you'd find that they were forced to respect BC, even if they didn't lose.
That's the type of reputation and branding Boston College has, and that's currently perfect for their needs. If BC were to brand its program as a national powerhouse, they would fail since they're only three seasons removed from 2-10 and have only won seven games the last two years with no bowl victories. Instead, we're the team that is clearly punching above its weight class, doing it successfully to a degree, and is a school nobody can count out. The dog might not be the biggest, but the bite and the bark is something to fear.
Instead, they're accepting that they're a private, Jesuit school built on academics where the majority of athletes go pro in something other than sports. But they have won the big game, have been to the mountain top, have placed a number of guys into the pro ranks. Those guys have gone onto successful careers. Even though that's not what our primary job is, that's what we're capable of.
Boston College is the little engine that can. We don't have the fan base size as an Alabama or a Southern Cal, but we compete with them on a weekly basis. And to the folks who are branding the university, that's something to build on, especially when the success starts flowing in high quantiites.