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Posted on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

Rise & Fall: David Brandon and University of Michigan branding

By Paula Gardner

One is turning the University of Michigan Athletic Department into a revenue-generator. The other threatens to dilute the value of the maize 'n blue if it goes too far.

Here are our picks for this week's winner and loser from the news:

Rise: David Brandon

David Brandon went from regent to athletic director, all the while running major corporations. So what’s one of his biggest attributes in the U-M role? “I love to win,” he told a crowd at the Washtenaw Economic Club. The former Wolverine makes sure his department is a winner, from top to bottom. His attention to staffing, facilities, gameday experiences, innovation - and character of the athletes (while they’re getting an education) - make him a true Michigan Man for an era when cultivating a growing but ethical program may not be universally valued.

Fall: University of Michigan’s branding

We appreciate the business of sports marketing and the increased attention it’s getting at U-M. And we appreciate the $6 million revenue stream it generated last year. But we also have to warn: There can be too much of a good thing. We get the announcements of the new maize ‘n blue products and have to shake our heads at them (dual-toned rose bouquets? Really?). With collegiate licensing a $4.6 billion national enterprise, we know plenty of people will be approaching U-M about still more opportunities. Please show restraint.


Tex Treeder

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

If this decision is a sign of things to come, I want to voice strong disapproval. If this isn't a worthwhile use of the "brand," then what is?


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

With something much more compelling than a cut-rate pizza to sell for the first time in his life, I worry about brand dilution and overexposure, especially with Brandon's face everywhere. The man loves the camera. While Michigan is busy cashing checks, which I applaud for the most part, the athletes speak with no voice and are being taken advantage of while the coaches and profitable programs get rich. He and the program would both benefit from his assuming a somewhat lower profile. It is not about him. It's about the kids, this great university and the competition. Now that we are "officially" in the tax-free business of college sports (colleges paying $52M to leave the ACC; TV revenues expected to reach $43M/school in the Big in a few years; $5M+ coaches and multimillion dollar buyouts) I am disappointed that we have not made ourselves the "Leaders & Best" in facilitating a long overdue dialogue about how the pie should be shared with the talent and whether we are exploiting young Americans who are 17-18 years old when they sign with schools. Michigan, c'mon, man!

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

only about 22-26 of 125 schools make money. So the pie does not have a lot of surplus.

Paula Gardner

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

@bushwacked - Yes, this absolutely is an opinion piece and posted primarily to our opinion page. And while that label used to be clearly on these pieces, i'm seeing that it's not at all right now. I apologize about that. I mentioned the roses because that's the item that sent me over the edge wondering where it'll end. Anyone out there want to share their favorite UM branded items? Also, full disclosure: I'm not against branding. I plan on dropping a fair amount on 'swag' for my kids, whom I've brainwashed into Little Wolverines.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Paula Don't feel bad about the 'opinion' tag missing. You guys have done this many times before. Should be kind of obvious that it is the opinion of the writer. I don't know of any official 'UP arrow' / 'DOWN arrow' agency that would release this as a news item.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

thanks for clarifying... I was looking for an opinion 'tag' and when I didn't see one, I was compelled to provide a bit of protest. Go Blue!


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

The atheltic director should love to teach and nuture young scholar athletes in their sport and academics first, win second. His first love should not be winning off the backs of students.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

Really Paula? - this is not a news story... it's a narrow subjective opinion. Keep in mind that you and your readers are more than likely linked to U-M due to proximity. As a result, you are bombarded with maize and blue and the block M. However, U-M is a global brand with world-wide affinity. There is a decent chance that someone who would send or receive maize and blue roses (or any other U-M related item), is encountering U-M branded items at a fraction of the volume that you and your readers are. This is akin to someone living in Dearborn saying "another Ford related trinket?, they are really diluting the Ford brand". As long as the product association presents a positive and accurate representation of U-M, why wouldn't U-M offer a U-M branded item if there is a desire for it?

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

David Brandon will do just long as Brady Hoke does. As long as there are 100,000 butts in the seats @ Main and Stadium everything is good. It means the "brand" is strong and in demand.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

Here's what you're missing - collecting licensed products is driven by the love of the license, in this case U of M. The item - such as a rose bouquet - is licensed because there are people who want the item. As long as the item is tasteful, your opinion that it's stupid is not relevant IF THERE IS A MARKET FOR IT. See NASCAR... Brandon is taking U of M's licensing into the 20th century. Only 100 years to go...


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

You are only partially correct. Licensed products hit the market because someone THINKS they will sell. Whether or not they actually sell and stay on the market (and make that person any money) is a test of time. I am not quite sure either on the difference between other people not liking a lot of the branding and you liking it as long as it is tasteful. Is it you that determines the tasteful line, but the others commenting are not allowed a line of their own? Also, holding up NASCAR as an example would seem to contradict your earlier statement on tasteful. Personally I think a lot of stuff being 'branded' today crossed that taste line a long time ago.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 1:26 a.m.

Ladies and gentlemen, Presenting the Michigan Marching Brand... ...Brand, take the field.

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 1:21 a.m.

What about the sports merchandise that is made in "sweat shops" or violating labor rights? The U of Washington just days ago cancelled an Adidas contract for those reasons. Where is umich on this issue?


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

Dave Brandon is doing a fine job. I'm glad we don't hear as much of the marching band at the football games and instead get to hear more standard fare like Seven Nation Army, Journey, Kanye West, and Bed Intruder. This adds to my game day experience and reinforces my good feelings toward the brand. All hail THE BRAND!!


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

David Brandon is responsible for Michigan's branding. This article is ridiculous, you may as well put his name by both

Rod Johnson

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 12:21 a.m.

He's also responsible for "staffing, facilities, gameday experiences, innovation," and other people are responsible for the brand too. The whole point here seems to be that it's a complex picture. I could really do with less of the "Michigan Man" meme, though.