Is any one surprised about the recent allegations against the University of Miami football program?
Of course not.
How come? That’s an easy one: Because Miami’s brand of urban thuggery said so. If you don’t believe in the power of a great brand – of it being such a powerful self-reflection of its customers that it can dictate behavior – then look no further than to the Hurricanes.
They developed one of the great brands in college football. It was the brand of outlaws. The incredibly talented who took whatever they wanted and made no apologies about it. It resulted in national championships, media exposure and a national profile. It also resulted in taunting behavior, nightlife altercations and scandal.
And, of course, there was the risk: That the brand would be so powerful that the players, coaches, alumni and boosters would act in accordance with that brand. Therefore, when Nevin Shapiro became the booster from hell, was anyone surprised? The brand of Miami football gave him permission to be the sugar daddy to the football stars and it was what we expected from that brand all along.
Miami got what it wanted by developing an emotional brand that was powerfully persuasive to a large number of people. It did what all great brands do: It was a self-reflection of those you are trying to persuade. It was different than anyone else – openly flaunting its swagger – and the self-reflection had a value that was emotionally intense.
Think about this way. Would we have been more surprised if this happened at Penn State, Nebraska or any other school? Surely, things like this happen in those football programs too, but we don’t believe they happen on this large of a scale because the brands of those programs attract a different sort of audience.
If you consider the power of brand to be overblown, remember the Miami Hurricanes. They are paying the price for it now, for sure, and may never return. But Miami knows the power of brand. If it wants to return as something transformed, Miami will change its brand first.