Can Penn State Football Rebuild its Brand?

January 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

As the college football seasons ends, I have one more post on college football and a school that is trying to rebuild its brand, Penn State.

Brands are more than advertising slogans or public relations campaigns. True brands are based on the promises that they keep to their internal and external customers at every touch point. Living up to these promises builds trust. Failure to live up their promises can have a negative and a sometimes devastating impact on Brand Equity (Awareness and Positive Associations). For years Penn State Football was one of the strongest and most trusted brands in college sports. Penn State in the Joe Paterno era built a strong legacy. Student Athletes, Alumni and Fans took great pride in the Penn State culture and doing things the right way. The university and football program had an impeccable reputation. The passion and loyalty to the Penn State program was summed up in the rallying cry ” We are Penn State”.

The Jerry Sandusky scandal, the cover up by Joe Paterno and school officials and the ongoing investigation severely damaged Penn State’s reputation They broke their promises and destroyed the trust the Penn State brand had built. This was a problem advertising and public relations could not fix.


This past week coach Bill O’Brien announced he was returning to Penn State for the 2013 season. This was great news for Penn State Football. Bill O’Brien was hired as Penn State’s football coach last January. He walked into a difficult situation made worse by NCAA Sanctions and the fact that nine top players was allowed to transfer without having to sit out a year.

Bill O’Brien proved to be the football coach and brand leader that Penn State needed. He handled the situation with class and led the team to an 8-4 record. Something, I personally thought was impossible. O’Brien shifted the focus from the past to the future and the road ahead. Bill O’Brien said his love for Penn State outweighed a desire to move to the pinnacle of his profession and a big payday from the NFL. This will endear him to student athletes, alumni and fans. For now Bill O’Brien is committed to helping Penn State Football live up to its promises one step at a time.

Will Bill O’Brien be able to restore trust and a winning tradition to Penn State football?


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