How it’s done: the branding of Oakland University athletics


The unique black top court in the O’rena emphasizes Oakland’s recent branding efforts. 

Oakland athletics has gotten a lot of publicity this year, much of it from Kay Felder making it on SportsCenter.

“The format became formalized in spring 2015,” athletic director Jeff Konya said. “Our Athletics [sic] Communications staff produces video clips of game action and highlighted individual plays after each contest for both internal and external use. It is distributed to national outlets when we believe the content is extraordinary such that it may qualify for a Top 10 ‘play of the day’ or a game we believe could be featured.”

Konya is referring to the SportsCenter packages, which get Oakland’s name out.

“Being on such a mainstream show exposes the university to a nationwide audience that would otherwise be inaccessible to Oakland University,” said Neal Ruhl, Oakland’s coordinator of broadcasting and social media.

The university doesn’t pay anything for the SportsCenter airtime. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pay back.

“Based on what it would cost to buy the exposure that Kay Felder has generated for Oakland University, I would be comfortable to estimate that figure in the $15 million range conservatively,” Ruhl said. “Those are eye popping numbers!”

Along with men’s and women’s basketball, Oakland athletics has sent game segments of baseball and softball to ESPN, according to Ruhl.

Another change Konya focused on was the use of social media. Hashtags such as #WEARtheBEAR and #OUrstory have been posted all over Twitter and Instagram by the Golden Grizzly family. With the recent dismissal of the block O, students have really taken a liking to the bear head, Konya said.

“We try to use [the bear head] as much as we can,” he said. “If you notice, we are one of the few schools in the mid-major athletics world that does not have the university name or the athletics nickname incorporated with our primary mark. We have the ‘bear head’ and it stand alone like the block M or the Fighting Irish….”

However, Konya has more than just the Blacktop, the Golden Grizzly head and the SportsCenter packages to thank for the success of the branding of Oakland athletics.

“The brand is only as good as the people willing to invest in it,” Konya said, “and that’s why I always trumpet and say kudos to our fans, our campus personnel, our [students] and student organizations, the band, the spirit squads and the list goes on because our brand is only as good as their belief in it.”