While The Iron Is Hot: Loyola Chicago Should Leverage the "Flutie Effect”
Aaron Andersen | Digital Ad Operations Specialist

Each year millions upon millions obsess over, and bear witness to, March Madness. Nearly 70 Division I teams fighting for the title of NCAA National Champion in basketball and the rest of us eat it up: joining pools, arguing across social media, in sports bars and around the water cooler.

We do this because March Madness has a way of consistently delivering narratives that draw us in—storylines emerge that make us laugh, cry and cheer—from Jimmy V’s NC State Wolfpack in 1983 to Butler’s Gordon Hayward missing a game-winning last-second shot in 2010 and the list goes on.

One of 2018’s principle narratives centered around a little-known Loyola University Chicago team and its wheelchair-bound “Sister Jean” Dolores Schmidt, who hadn’t seen her Ramblers get to the Final Four since 1963. And while Loyola disappointingly exited this year’s Final Four at the hands of Michigan, there is a far greater business opportunity for the university at play: Leveraging what’s known as the “Flutie Effect.”

Named for former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie who won the Heisman Trophy after completing one of the most improbable passes ever vs. the University of Miami in 1984, the “Flutie Effect” takes into account the significant value, visibility and impact that high profile athletic success can have on an academic institution’s overall reputation.

Within the two years following Flutie’s historic game, applications to Boston College rose some 30 percent according to a Harvard Business School study, and the “Flutie Effect” has continued to demonstrate an increase in applications as well as economic support following major sports successes like a national championship run or Final Four appearance.

According to USA Today, more recently schools like Florida Gulf Coast and George Mason experienced the phenomena. After FGCU reached the Sweet 16, applications jumped nearly 28 percent, while George Mason saw out-of-state applications rise 54 percent following it’s run in 2006.

Today the iron is hot for Loyola. Not only is the university’s web traffic 400 percent higher than this time last year, but more than 10,000 Sister Jean bobbleheads have been sold for crying out loud! The opportunity may never be more ripe for the university to capitalize on its brand.

So what’s a Jesuit university in Chicago to do? According to the Chicago Tribune, “Loyola’s leaders are working furiously to parlay the crush of attention into sustained interest,” and acknowledgement is step one.

Here’s a highly simplified approach towards driving both admissions and capital contributions on the back of this year’s hoops success:

  • First, develop a message to market the Loyola brand beyond hoops. Maybe something like, “More than just a Cinderella story,” “Jesuit Education: Windy City Style,” or “College Excellence Beyond the Hardwood.”
  • Create branded series of diverse content sharing the Loyola narrative from a student lifestyle perspective. Don’t ignore athletics altogether but focus largely on everyday students and their reality in a hyper-positive manner.
  • Don’t just zero-in on books and strolls through the quad. Demonstrate the uniquely urban and near-waterfront collegiate experience of going to college in a diverse neighborhood (Rogers Park), in one of the great U.S. cities (Chicago), and alongside Lake Michigan.
  • Continue to position Sister Jean as part of the narrative, but as more than simply a hoops fan as she’s been made out to be by national media. Demonstrate her to be what I can only assume–an advocate for all students and a devout servant of the church.
  • Take that content and tailor it for a variety of platforms. In the absence of true targeting data, let’s start digitally with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (with paid dollars behind the content) that targets Catholic high school juniors and seniors, parents of teens, and alumni (who should not be taken for granted).
  • Think geographically. Most families want to stay just close enough to feel near yet kids want to be far enough away to feel free. So focus the targets on perhaps 10 U.S. states within 500 miles of Chicago.

 

In the end, build upon the goodwill stemming from the NCAA tournament success but show the broader picture of Loyola and how its students thrive. Use every glimmer of that spotlight while you have it,  because while it’s here today, it might very well be gone tomorrow.

Aaron Andersen

As a Digital Ad Operations specialist, Aaron's job is to harmonize Elasticity's clients' goals, desires, and media plan with the ever-changing media landscape. Through the use of data and conversations, he lives to discover new insights and perspectives that bring positive change and challenge possibilities.

Aaron learned the fundamentals of advertising and media planning from his time at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he graduated with a bachelor of journalism in strategic communication. Fresh out of college, he helped U.S. Bank launch into programmatic display to drive online mortgage and refinance applications. Since then, he's worked as a licensed mortgage loan officer and videographer for his father's sports highlight video company, STL Sports Productions. In time, all roads lead back to advertising, where he's eager to re-engage with the challenges and opportunities Elasticity provides.

When not in the office, you can find Aaron hanging out with his family & friends, singing Ne-Yo ballads when he thinks no one is listening, and working on his fantasy book series.

Creative, Culture, Data, Development, Media, News, PR, Social, Strategy | 11.12.2019
Brand Marketing + Reputation Management Firm Elasticity Enters Denver Market
Award-winning brand marketing and reputation management agency Elasticity today announced
Culture, Data, Media, News, PR | 08.12.2019
When Too Much is Too Much: The Art of Email Marketing
I am not an email marketing expert, and as an
Culture, Media, News, PR | 10.06.2015
Elasticity Seeks Digital Content & Design Manager
Are you a digitally savvy communicator with presentation design skills
Culture, Media, News, PR | 04.05.2016
15 Tips for Media Preparedness
I began my career in television which lent itself to the