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Branding & Sub-Branding: Foundations of Athletic & Academic Facilities

HubSpot Video

 

Retailers try to create the best possible customer and associate experience in order to increase revenue and foster loyalty. It’s no different for colleges and athletic departments. They develop branded environments focused on recruiting, retaining and nurturing the best students, athletes, professors and administrators to thrive in the present and build loyalty for the future. 

Yet recognizing a university as a branded environment is just the first step. While every area operates under one brand, it’s critical to understand each subculture or sub-brand on campus, as an optimized business school environment is different from the thoughtfully designed humanities building, just as the football team operates within a different culture than the soccer team. 

"A football player and soccer player could grow up as next door neighbors but they speak different sport languages — field versus pitch, uniform versus kit," said Jeremy Buttson, Miller Zell VP of National Accounts.  "They have different heroes, with one having domestic heroes and the other having international ones.  And they likely follow different trends and styles as a result.  So if you don’t embrace and represent those subcultures and instead homogenize the brand, you’ll lose out on critical recruiting moments.” 

Research and data mining are where each facilities project truly begins. This ensures the ensuing designs will be purposeful as well as impressive. It focuses on engaging a university as a brand and its various cultures and subcultures as sub-brands, whether that’s about a specific sport, academic discipline or social environment. 

For Miller Zell, this process starts with a thorough exploration of a university’s brand core and brand attributes. This helps us develop a brand filter, which operates as a verbal and visual journey through the university’s brand and culture/subcultures. 

 

"Respecting and serving these differences create a parity among revenue and non-revenue sports or larger and smaller academic departments because it includes a recognition and celebration of perhaps previously marginalized subcultures."

 

What distinguishes that academic, athletic or social culture within the university? And how will this branded environment meet those wants and needs? This approach cultivates “buy-in” with students, coaches and athletic & academic leaders as they participate in the creation of a sub-brand while knowing this collaboration is about fulfilling their shared vision. This recognition and celebration of subcultures and sub-brands elevate recruiting, both athletically and academically. 

Respecting and serving these differences create a parity among revenue and non-revenue sports or larger and smaller academic departments because it includes a recognition and celebration of perhaps previously marginalized subcultures. This attention to detail creates deep connections between student/athlete and their primary university environments. 

Our work with SMU provides a good example of our process. Each project involved a multi-pronged collaboration with SMU administrators, architects and general contractors, while Miller Zell focused on research, branding/sub-branding, design, procurement, production, décor, digital and installation, all capabilities within our end-to-end services. 

Said Michael Molina, SMU’s Associate VP & Chief Architect, “The Miller Zell team perfectly aligned with our effort to change the paradigm on project approach and delivery here at SMU. The insight and experience from conceptual brand development through design and implementation were efficient, imaginative, creative and powerful.” 

Looking to get a more in-depth look at our work with SMU? Check our our work within the alumni, visitor, athletic, recruiting and student life spaces.

Loving our work? Have questions? Just want to chat? We’d love to discuss our ideas on branding and sub-branding with you. 

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