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Posted on Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Throwback jerseys, first-ever night game part of strategy to market University of Michigan athletics

By Kellie Woodhouse


Michigan fans cheer in the stands during the second half at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.

Melanie Maxwell |

Throwback uniforms. The first-ever night game in Big House history. A $20 million pair of scoreboards. A new coach.

Michigan football fans’ heads are spinning.

And that’s just the way University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon wants it.

“We’re working real hard to make these events bigger and better and more exciting,” Brandon said in a recent interview with “We want to have our student athletes feel the adrenalin rush that comes from knowing that they’re competing in front of a friendly, lively, excited crowd.”

Ever since the former Domino’s Pizza CEO assumed the reins of U-M’s athletic department, things have been just that: Exciting.

“One of the things I wanted to do early on is to challenge the status quo and to try to come up with some ways to send the message that we were willing and interested in doing something different,” Brandon said.

Two weeks into his job, Brandon decided that what U-M athletics really needed was a breath of fresh air. So he conducted a national search for a Chief Marketing Officer, a rare position in college athletics.

He grew the marketing staff from a team of three people to an operation of more than a dozen, adding several new hires —including someone who specializes in social media— and bringing the ticketing and online divisions under the realm of marketing.

Since Brandon's switch from pizza to scoreboards, U-M athletics has significantly upped its online and print advertising for all of its sports and has begun embracing newer forms of marketing, like Twitter and text messaging.


UM Athletic Director Dave Brandon

Lon Horwedel |

Brandon declined to release the amount of marketing expenditures for this year’s fall athletic season.

“When I got here, we had three people in our marketing department and they had very little budgeting allocations. You just didn’t have the resources to do very much and you didn’t have strong leadership,” Brandon said. “Marketing wasn’t an area that was emphasized in any way. Mostly there were three people working on posters and programs and making sure there was a half-time show lined up.”

As he reorganized the department, Brandon realized he also had to redefine marketing within it.

Brandon said he knew successful marketing was more than creating posters, but his challenge was how to make that knowledge come to life in a way that would really impress Wolverine fans.

“I decided that we were going to do the first night game,” Brandon recalls.

But the concept didn’t stop there.

For the first night game to be the success he envisioned, it had to be the right formula of old and new, of familiar and unfamiliar.

The first ingredient would be playing Notre Dame, an age-old rivalry that dates back to 1887 and that sparked in 1947 during a heated AP title dispute and flared in 1982 when the Irish beat out Michigan during Notre Dame’s first-ever night game.

But Brandon had to up the stakes: Legacy uniforms.

“The thought occurred to me that wouldn’t it be a fun opportunity, in primetime, to have something really special to celebrate the past,” Brandon said. “So I immediately drove down to South Bend and met with my counterpart down at Notre Dame and shared my idea with him.”

The end result was a fourth-quarter upset that ended in Michigan’s 35-31 win over the Irish, witnessed by a record-setting attendance of 114,804, the largest crowd in the history of college football.

The initial printing of 9,000 Legacy T-shirts exclusively sold at the M-Den sold out in record time, necessitating a waitlist for the next printing. Brandon said he did not know exactly how many T-shirts have been sold to date.

Legacy. Record-setting. Largest. First-ever. Sold-out.

Those are words that marketing-types like to hear, and this year they’re buzzing all around Michigan Stadium.

“It certainly draws a lot of attention,” Brandon said of the historic night game with an unprecedented attendance in an unmatched arena. “Marketing is somehow figuring out how to create one of the five largest television audiences for a college football game in NCAA history… according to ESPN.”

Oops, forgot that one.

Aside from the hype of the night game and the legacy uniforms, Brandon decided to elevate Michigan Football even further by equipping the stadium with a $20 million pair of high-definition scoreboards.

The scoreboards were installed in the spring and debuted this season.


One of two new scoreboards at the Big House.

Kellie Woodhouse |

“We have these giant new unbelievable... toys: New scoreboards. So instantly those are re-creating the atmosphere,” said CMO Hunter Lochmann. “That right there changes the dynamics of event presentation.”

Lochmann, a former marketing guru with the New York Knicks NBA team, assumed the CMO position Brandon created last winter.

The high-definition scoreboards also allow the athletic department to advertise other sports during football games. Already, they've been used to promote golf, soccer and volleyball.

"We have these beautiful new video boards, and video tells a good story, so why not show the 28 other teams participating up there?" Lochmann said.

Lochmann is also taking previously empty television commercial break or halftime lulls and highlighting "legends," successful former U-M athletes.

The objective, Brandon said, is to raise the attendance of U-M athletic events 10 percent across the board. And although Lochmann said he is still compiling numbers for this season, preliminary reports show that attendance at U-M volleyball, men's and women's soccer and football is up from last year. Lochmann declined to release the preliminary numbers.

Lochmann's and Brandon’s idea is to make every game, even seemingly predicable duels against Eastern and Western Michigan, an event with a capital E.

“For us, it’s innovation, it’s change,” Brandon said. “The marketing and the wow and the excitement are feeding that engine and creating a new environment.”

The new environment, Brandon says, is cyclical. A hyped-up program not only gets more fans, but it gets better recruits. Better players make for more wins, and more wins make for happy fans.

To get there, though, Brandon’s new team needs to keep mixing it up.

“This is a school steeped in some of the most unbelievable tradition in college athletics. We’re never going to shy away from that, but we’re going to take chances,” Lochmann said. “You’re going to see… things we’ve never done before.”

Lochmann continued: “We have the green light to try new things.”

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on Twitter.

Thumbnail image for 091011_SPT_UMNDGAME_MRM_48_display.jpg

New lights illuminate the field at Michigan Stadium for the first-ever night game at Michigan.


Lac Court Orilles

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

Would someone out there please let me know what % of the fans are Walmart Wolverines. It would be an interesting fact to know how many non Michigan graduates attend football and basketball games and if this knowledge is taken into consideration when marketing strategy is decided upon. Thanks. Let me know...

Lemmy Caution

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

I'm glad that Brandon is doing the right thing with these investments, and especially that he's finally giving the players (on whom everything depends) a piece of the action (money-wise). I can't remember, though, was he giving the player/entertainers a back-end deal on all UM football highlight and streamings via the NCAA, offering them Cadillac health insurance for life, or just pay up-front? Could you clarify? Either way, I'm glad he's finally showing leadership in the big business of college football and putting the financial security of the most important people (the players) at the center. Otherwise, hed' just be profiteering off their "amateur" status, and that would be embarrassing to me as a UM lover.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:06 a.m.

You can call it marketing, you can call it whatever you want. The bottom line is wins. You win, people will come to watch.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 3:23 a.m.

You forgot to mention the switch from the season ticket waitlist to the new and improved season Ticket interest list, which now requires you to pony up ast least $100.00 a year to even be on the wait list. Apparently, they need this money so a student athlete can get a weeks worth of strength and conditioning and athletic medicine. For $500 you can buy a student athlete 37 hours of academic services.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

None of that junk means anything. Just win games - that's all the marketing you need.

1st Down

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:50 a.m.

Oh the noise! Those darned kids and their noise! Oh boo hoo.... now where did I put my Depends...?


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:17 a.m.

I really don't get the big deal about crowd noise at FB games. The fact is Michigan Stadium is a "quiet" venue and always will be. It's a simple matter of acoustics. Michigan Stadium is a shallow bowl. (Note the horizontal distance from the last row of seats to the playing field.) Therefore, ANY sound will dissipate. By constrast, note the relatively short horizontal distance from the last row of "C" deck to the sideline at Ohio Stadium. You're virtually on top of the field. The result: sounds are contained. Another fact: Our band never stops playing.


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.

i think it is great the way it is. noise can go higher, the crowd can get bigger, the price of hot dogs and etc. can go up. does not bother me. i stay home and watch it on the tv. i can go to the bathroom and come back and not miss to much. i can go the the refg and get something to drink. i can yell at them. i can cheer them. i am a happy michigan fan. freeze when cold. get wet when it rains. certain benfits on staying home and not driving after or before. go blue.


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 10:40 p.m.

Regarding the NOISE. One can tolerate the loud noise on Saturday, because we know a football game is in progress. However, it is way too much to ask the Football Stadium neighbors to endure the loud noise level all day Sunday!!! Regarding the LIGHTS. The video boards are on all night long. Isn't that a waste of energy (money)? This too is a neighborhood problem as the light from the score boards lights up the neighborhood. I have tried to contact Mary Sue Coleman to let her know of this problem. (I can't find her email address) I have sent emails to Jim Kosteva to no avail. If anyone reads this article and personally knows President Coleman, please let her know of the Neighborhood concerns regarding the loud noise and bright lights.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:01 a.m.

Wow! People working at the stadium having access to an expensive sound system for their entertainment? A giant boom box!!! Seems like the "people" are not very considerate of their neighbors on Sundays. I wonder what UofM management is doing on Sunday? I vote to give each worker an Apple IPOD, so the neighborhood can have peace and quiet on Sundays! Thanks for the info!!!


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

Call campus security... in the past people working at the stadium have had access to the sound system for their entertainment.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:50 a.m.

The stadium sound system played loud music all day today. Today was not the first time loud music has emitted from the stadium when there was not a football game or scheduled event.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

Noise on Sunday? What are you talking about?

David Briegel

Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

Sunshine, They don't care! They especially don't care about you! Brandon is in charge and he doesn't care or even have a clue!


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

I call it progress, just like changing from the horse and buggy days to the automobile and to super sonic jets and space travel. Some will embrace this change and others will resist and complain and scoff. Either way, there's no stopping this freight train. FYI: Don Canham was a great sports marketing innovator in his time...he started it.


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

There are times, especially before the game, where the music is played too loud. Otherwise, the scoreboards are a huge improvement. Worth $10 million each? No.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:13 a.m.

It depends on one thing. Wins. You win and people will come. You start losing behinds in those seats and it begins to look like a bad idea when the bill comes due.

Yeah buddy

Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

Keep making the changes, they have all been great so far. Don't listen to the old timers, if they had things their way Michigan would still be playing without pads or helmets. The game in Alabama is about putting UM on a national stage against good competition. Well worth a lost home game, but don't worry the TV rights for that game will more that replace the lost revenue from hosting a home game against a team on par with our normal early year opponents. Also, an excuse to play a game in the best recruiting state in the country isn't such a bad consolation prize.

Yeah buddy

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

Texas is the best recruiting state in the country.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:12 a.m.

Right and its a travesty to play in a stadium not belonging to either school. A lot of people are already complaining about the cost of going to a game and this game in Arlington is strictly for rich folk. How many students will be able to go? I am on the fence on Brandon. Seems like tradition is out the window in favor of the almighty dollar.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:40 a.m.

The game is not in Alabama. The game is in Dallas, against Alabama.


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

oh for the day when real student athletes played extracurricular games and there wasn't a brand to be marketed beyond the actual quality of academics...kind makes the U feel like its becoming a Dominoes Pizza.

David Briegel

Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

jcj, You hit the nail on the head! Virtually nothing they've done makes things "better"! And the noise! I can't believe nobody has complained about the NOISE! It's not pleasant, it's just NOISE! Next years 6 game home schedule is an embarassment. A month without a game and, oh, you goin' to Dallas for the good game?

David Briegel

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:45 a.m.

macabre, I don't think it's the NOISE that will give us that intimidation factor! They don't play that amplified NOISE during the game. It is only during the timeouts!

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

It's not about intimidation. There is a demonstrated advantage in forcing your opponents to use a simpler offense with fewer audibles and less variation in snap count. That's what noise does for you. According to the experts, Michigan's home field is worth 4 1/4 points per game. There are other fields with greater advantages. With the country's largest stadium, I see no reason why we can't match those advantages.

David Briegel

Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 11 p.m.

There is nothing intimidating about NOISE! That's silly. Bring Bama here and see if they are intimidated! Jerry Jones will let you know!! We won't know if the product is better until we play some real teams! MRunner, I love the games and it is just chaotic nonsense! At the EMU game there was "music" from both bands and the touring band in our section. It was just NOISE!! It was like the idiots blasting their car boom boom stereos that I can hear a block away. This intimidation factor is silly until we get an intimidating football team. Which we are well on the way towards! You can't "manufacture" intimidation!!


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 9:40 p.m.

The stadium was built in the 1920s and has always been just east of a residential area that also happens to be upwind, most of the time to the stadium. It would be reasonable to think that it has always been somewhat noisy. There is much more noise at the stadium because the product on the field is much better. Better get used to it as this football program should only get better in the years to come. Live and let live and if it is all too much, know that Ann Arbor is a college town and supposed to lively. Football season only lasts three months, therefore you should be content the other nine months. If you don't like it, move to Saline, Dexter or soemwhere outside the A2 city limits.


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

"Oh, the noise! So terrible!" I heard that from some old bluehairs at the Stadium yesterday. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like being called the quietest 100K in college football. Do you? We have an environment in the Stadium now that's intimidating to the opposition. This should've happened years ago. It gets fans amped up. As long as it doesn't go over the band, I love it.


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

"Lochmann, a former marketing guru with the New York Knicks NBA team," That is nothing to hang your hat on!


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

"U-M Athletics: Bigger, better and more exciting " You left out MORE expensive!