Thursday September 21, 2023
The Best Employers in Sports Survey is Now Open!

Georgia Tech Leads Brand-First Push in College Football

  • The concept of brand has become increasingly important in college athletics - especially in football - with name, image and likeness rules changes coming.
  • “Since I came back home to Atlanta, a large part of my focus has been on building an exciting brand and culture for our football program,” GT football coach Geoff Collins said.
Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Sports Today

Could Promotion-Relegation work in College Football?

The proposal aims to create an exciting media product while reducing travel for non-football sports.
Listen Now
September 21, 2023 | Podcast
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

When Atlanta native Geoff Collins came back to Georgia Tech in 2019 to take over as the football team’s head coach, he brought with him a traditional focus with a unique twist: bringing the program back to prominence, but doing so largely by elevating the “brand” of Yellow Jacket football. 

This concept of brand is tied to almost every major corporation, sports entity, or celebrity in the country – yet never before has it had as prominent of a place in college athletics. Personal branding is undeniably tied to the current name, image, and likeness conversations, putting an onus on universities to prioritize their program’s exposure and maximize brand reach to entice players who want to capitalize on it. 

Schools like Nebraska and Oklahoma led the way, working with outside agencies to create personal logos for signees and launch massive brand-centric campaigns around particular milestones for their program, but rebuilding programs like Georgia Tech are also now jumping on board. 

The Yellow Jackets signed a one-year deal with creative agency J1S to focus exclusively on the brand of the program Collins is trying to build throughout the Peach State. J1S had previously partnered with the Sooners to create a signing day campaign in December. The J1S-Georgia Tech deal has an option to extend the partnership an additional two more years.

“We’ve kind of entered the collegiate athletic space to try and help elevate these college athletic programs from a branding and marketing perspective as well on the student-athlete content assistance side of things,” Mike Jones, J1S founder and CEO, said. “Coach Collins really believes in elevating the brand at that school and the association between Georgia Tech and Atlanta. And individual athlete brand is also a huge conversation that’s taking place, and he’s all in on that.”

The partnership intends not only to benefit the Georgia Tech program. Ideally, it will also form a preparatory foundation for the NIL allowances to come.

“There’s no one that knows the exact way [NIL] will shake out and what it will look like,” Jones said. “We know it’s coming and will happen, but what it looks like – we don’t know. I think programs like Oklahoma [and] Georgia Tech are starting to prepare themselves so that whatever way it shakes out, they already have the tools in their toolboxes.” 

Those tools are also tied to recruiting. The modern conversations about what a program can offer a prized recruit extend far beyond the football field and will continue to do so as off-field opportunities expand. Over the years, Atlanta has emerged as a hotbed of music, culture, entertainment, and athletics. Collins hopes that by actively working to more directly link his school and the city, he’ll be able to entice players to join his program as successfully as he hopes to get Atlanta to connect with the university.

“We’re excited about our brand initiative,” Collins said. “Since I came back home to Atlanta, a large part of my focus has been on building an exciting brand and culture for our football program. Our partnership with J1S aligns perfectly with our goals and the culture here at Georgia Tech football and the way we embrace the city of Atlanta. We’re all excited about what’s ahead in this program.”

The first part of the partnership, which formally began in January, involves aligning with the city through the Yellow Jackets’ upcoming FOR The 404 campaign, a nod to the area code of Atlanta. It is tentatively set to launch in the fall of 2020.

“It’s directly trying to build that association with Atlanta and Georgia Tech,” Jones said. “But alongside that will be a player-first initiative. We know player [name,] image, and likeness is coming, some version of it. So we’re coming in to help provide these athletes with the content, assets and branding that they feel is needed to prepare themselves for life after football but also life currently as a student-athlete in the near future.”

READ MORE: Consensus Hard To Come By Around Student-Athlete NIL Opportunities

To amplify the support they can provide their football players as a personal brand becomes even more of a priority with NIL rules changes set to take effect during the 2021-2022 season, the program also partnered with consultant Jeremy Darlow to educate Yellow Jackets’ football student-athletes on how to build a desirable personal brand that transcends sports.

The hope is that the combination of outside assistance will put Georgia Tech one step ahead of its competitors in the eyes of recruits. Programs that support players’ individual brand success are going to be increasingly appealing in the NIL era.

“[We’re] making sure that we’re positioning ourselves as this whole thing starts to change,” Santino Stancato, Georgia Tech football’s brand manager, who came with Collins from Temple, said. “I think it puts us in good standing. As far as marketing goes, it’s not always easy to pinpoint the return on investment. But I think as the content that we’re going to be able to roll out, and the building of our athletes’ brands comes to fruition, [it’ll come] as our athletes. The guys that we’re going to be recruiting and bringing into this program are going to have strong brands within the college football universe. Hopefully, that’s where we’ll see our return.”

Georgia Tech signed the nation’s No. 26 recruiting class in December, according to 247 Sports, the closest they’ve come to cracking the top 25 since 2007. Stancato connects Collins’ commitment to brand to at least part of his early success in recruiting for the Yellow Jackets.

Future success will lie in developing athletes’ individual public personas and leveraging their link to the brand of their school, Jones said. The platform of Georgia Tech’s football program should be used to promote student-athletes, given the greater reach of the university’s social and media presence, which Jones describes as “significant to any of the players.” J1S’s goal is to help the university use their existing platforms to build player awareness, while simultaneously supplying those same student-athletes with the resources of assets they need to promote their own brands on their own handles.

READ MORE: College Social Accounts Piggyback Off NFL Draft Success

Promoting the connection to the city is also connected to the current NIL conversations. The two-pronged approach the school is taking in partnership with J1S – aligning with Atlanta and also focusing on athlete-first content – is composed of parallel goals.

“All of what we’re doing kind of ties into the conversation with name, image, and likeness,” Stancato explained. “Being in the city of Atlanta, we’re around all the Fortune 500 companies. There’s a ton of business around here.”

He continued: “The opportunity that sits here in Atlanta with your image and likeness and then also with the internships that guys are getting into, all that stuff, it’s a no brainer that they’re tied. As we kind of move into this image and likeness thing, there’s no better time to have this type of outside backing. [from J1S].”

Collins and his staff see connecting the school to Atlanta as connecting the school to opportunity – of all kinds. That opportunity is what all hope will entice recruits. Relevance in that regard has become the main focal point.

“College football is the only sport in the world where we hear the ‘marketing doesn’t matter, winning drive sales’ argument all the time,” Jones added. “But the [counter] argument there is that what drives winning is talent and good coaching. So as relevant as you are to those recruits, the better chance you have at securing them and winning as a result.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Tickets for Colorado’s upcoming road game against Oregon are more expensive than 14 of 16 Week 3 NFL matchups.

Deion Sanders' Impact Makes Tickets Pricier Than NFL Games

Colorado-Oregon tickets are pricier than most Week 3 NFL matchups.
Renderings of the University of Virginia's new proposed athletic facilities.

Virginia Joins The College Facilities Arms Race

UVA plans to upgrade football and Olympic sports facilities.

How Daktronics Helps Elite Athletic Programs Secure Top Talent

How colleges are utilizing Daktronics' displays to elevate recruiting.
Deion Sanders

Colorado's Epic Victory Sets New ESPN Prime Time Viewership Record

Coach Prime Deion Sanders delivered in prime time on ESPN.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Could Promotion-Relegation work in College Football?


Featured Today

Boise State Broncos running back Ashton Jeanty (2) runs the ball against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks during the first half at Albertsons Stadium.

The First Official Proposal for Promotion-Relegation In College Football

Realignment is forcing Group of 5 schools to rethink their structure.
A general view of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Stadium.
September 20, 2023

Political Support Grows for RFK Stadium Bill

The Commanders exited RFK after the 1996 NFL season for FedEx Field.
Philadelphia Eagles jerseys.
September 19, 2023

Fanatics Fumbles Eagles Merchandise, Pauses Future Shipments

Michael Rubin has apologized for crooked Eagles apparel sent to fans.
September 19, 2023

Coach Prime Is Ratings Gold, And Everyone Wants A Piece Of The Pie

Colorado games continue to deliver huge viewership numbers.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Chicago Cubs
New York
Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, Inc.
USA - Multiple Locations
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker speaks at post game press conference after 31-7 win over Central Michigan at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.

Mel Tucker Firing Would Prevent $80M Buyout on Historic Contract

Tucker was suspended after a report of alleged sexual harassment.
SMU has raised $100 million from donors before it forgoes media rights payments for the first nine years of its ACC tenure.
September 18, 2023

SMU Raises $100M for ACC Move as Basketball, Football Sales Surge

SMU has raised $100 million ahead of its 2024 move to the ACC.
September 17, 2023

Coach Prime, Unbeaten Colorado Keep Larger-Than-Life Hype Going

Boulder was the epicenter of college football over the weekend.
September 17, 2023

Learfield Recapitalization Extends Private Equity Presence In College Sports

Deal advances private equity's presence in college sports
September 14, 2023

Dartmouth Men’s Basketball Players File Petition to Unionize

There are two other similar NLRB cases pending.
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker looks on after a touchdown against Central Michigan during the second half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
September 12, 2023

Michigan State Coach Denies Allegations Amid Unpaid Suspension

In his rebuttal, Mel Tucker called an upcoming hearing a “sham.”
September 11, 2023

Washington State, Oregon State Take Small Step Toward Saving the Pac-12

A small victory for the two remaining schools in the conference.
USF plans to borrow $200 million to build an on-campus stadium for its football and women’s lacrosse teams.
September 11, 2023

University of South Florida Gets Approval for $340M Football Stadium

USF plans to borrow $200 million to build its new on-campus stadium.