I’ll venture that I’m the only person to think of Air Supply’s signature hit song, “Making Love, Out of Nothing at All,” when I heard the news of the University of Nebraska joining the Big Ten.
We as marketers have a natural tendency to want to hype things and control the message as much as possible. “Educate” (my favorite marketing euphemism) the various stakeholders why this is great news for them. “Encourage” consumers to discover the real benefits and why these developments are not only meaningful to them, but cause for celebration.
Yet smart marketers also understand that real, sustainable relationships typically are those that are self-discovered and driven by consumers. And here is where the Big Ten and other conferences will have to tread lightly when adding schools with established traditions and rivalries that often stretch over decades. People inherently don’t like change and the caliber and steeped traditions of these schools arguably require a change management program as much as a marketing campaign.
I’ve already seen pundits predicting the “new” rivalry of Nebraska and Ohio State. That particular rivalry may very well happen, but the teams and fans will have to see what naturally develops rather than having it forced upon them by a marketing or media machine. My greatest fear – albeit hopefully far fetched – is a corporate sponsor rushing to artificially create fresh rivalries and introduce trophies upon the new match-ups even before the games are played.
It will be an interesting study in what the “new normal” becomes in these major conferences and whether love truly develops where only general familiarity at most had existed before.