How Nielsen Sports Is Changing the Game of College Recruiting

    • Nielsen Sports is changing the way universities recruit student athletes with the creation of the Nielsen Impact Score (NIS).
    • The NIS is a marketing value index that is created based on three key inputs, and helps athletic programs better articulate their true value to recruits.

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Once the nets come down on another chaotic March, the college basketball madness really tips off.

Recruiting is the game within the game; a competition that can make or break teams well before the first preseason Top 25 debuts. Coaches travel across the country to visit with blue chip players, families sift through stacks of scholarship offers—and that was before Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) rules made future earning potential as important as athletic facilities and campus life.

While NIL deals are changing the stakes for student-athletes, Nielsen Sports is changing the whole recruiting game. Their newest innovation, the Nielsen Impact Score (NIS), quantifies the marketing value of each major athletic program in the country, equipping college coaches with a powerful new tool to tell their school’s full story to recruits around the country. 

The Nielsen Impact Score is a marketing value index built from Nielsen’s best-in-class proprietary audience data that compares college athletic programs along three key inputs: National Exposure, Local Market Impact, and Social Media Engagement.

Nielsen has long been the global leader in audience measurement, data, and analytics, and Nielsen Sports dives even deeper into the numbers for the biggest teams across every major sport. As sports evolve, Nielsen adapts to provide marketing strategies and solutions to help teams compete in changing marketplaces—and NILs have fully upended the college recruiting playbook.

Now that players factor marketing opportunities and personal brand-building into their college decisions, the Nielsen Impact Score provides coaches critical data points to help differentiate their school from competitors and give student-athletes a clear picture of how a school will augment their earning potential.

The NIS is already available for nearly 100 NCAA Division I men’s college basketball programs. For the NIS launch, Nielsen Sports is partnering with one of the most successful programs in college basketball, the Duke University Blue Devils, to provide the school a creative strategy to elevate their iconic brand and share their story with recruits.

“The Nielsen Impact Score is another way to position our basketball program to potential future Blue Devils by sharing the true data points in their own marketability,” says Duke Men’s Basketball Creative Director David Bradley. “When we say ‘bright lights, biggest stage’ – we will have comprehensive data to show what that means to the next generation of elite student-athletes.”

Each school’s Nielsen Impact Score is calculated using three different indices: 

  • National Exposure is the basis for any marketing deal, and that input in the NIS leverages proprietary Nielsen TV Ratings data to rank each school’s appearance on national TV from coast-to-coast. 
  • College sports marketing is heavily local and regional, a trend that is already driving the structure of NIL deals, so Local Market Impact, using Nielsen Scarborough data, measures a school’s fanbase engagement with local activations. 
  • Finally, Social Media Engagement calculates the value of each school’s online presence through followers, engagement rates, and more.

With one clear ranking metric, athletic programs can tell prospective student-athletes a clear success story while standing out from rival programs that recruit from the same region or vie for the same on-court accolades. The Nielsen Impact Score rankings provide greater context for comparing schools while providing athletic departments of every size and scale with a cutting-edge platform to reach high schoolers, junior college players, and college students entering the transfer portal. 

“By adding the Nielsen Impact Score to our other Nielsen Sports solutions such as Nielsen Fan Insights, Return on Sponsorship Investment and Sports Connect,” says Nielsen Sports Managing Director Jon Stainer, “we continue to raise the bar on the value we can bring to sports properties and brands through a data-driven approach. No other company is able to offer this type of solution since Nielsen has the largest breadth of TV data, and its own local market consumer research in Nielsen Scarborough.”

When two teams face off on the floor, the final score is the only metric that matters. But when it comes to recruiting, it’s all about telling the right story to a student-athlete who is eager to shine both on and off the court.

The NIS helps settle the score between schools, provides the data to translate potential in value, and gives every program in the country a powerful new opportunity to tell a rich, complete story. Success breeds success, and the NIS helps schools lay a foundation for future star players to build a winning program.