Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
I've got a lot to share with you today!
First, there are two NIL/College Sports Reform podcasts you might be interested in. I caught up with my old friends at The Solid Verbal to discuss the relationship between NIL and the EA Sports College Football Video game, how my opinion of the market has changed over the last several months, and what college football might look like in a decade.
On our own podcast, Going For Two, Bryan and I chatted with Mit Winter, an attorney at KennyHertzPerry, to better understand the actual legal lay of the land with the updated NCAA guidance on NIL. We did our best to separate fact from speculation and lay out the next things to watch.
You can also find the videos of our previous podcasts right here.
I think I'm going to do a bigger NIL column early next week...and then unless the news cycle absolutely forces me to write about it, I want to let the topic breathe for a little while. I'd like a little more time to think and report and observe, and also this is breaking my brain a little bit.
Today, I want to write about something a little different. The following is a product of a sponsorship agreement between Skyway Interactive and Extra Points. I occasionally will run sponsored content, but promise to only accept proposals from brands that are aligned with the sort of stuff you'd want to read about anyway.
Schools spend a gazillion dollars on their athletic facilities for lots of reasons. Sure, they want to make sure everything is operating at peak capacity, so they can give their athletes the best experience possible. They want to put a good foot forward for donors, fans, and marketing partners. And of course, they want to showcase the facilities to potential recruits.
But many schools are located in rural areas that aren't always the easiest places to get to at the drop of a hat. And during COVID, getting recruits and their families o on campus was almost impossible.
Enter: the virtual tour. With a few clicks, anybody, be they a recruit, marketing partner, or reporter sitting in his Chicago backyard, can be whisked to the Oregon baseball locker room, the lacrosse facilities at Northwestern, the football facilities at Arizona State, and more. Skyway Interactive, one of the leading firms in this space, not only thinks they can help schools showcase their facilities to the entire world, but that they can do it in an affordable and sustainable way.
Like me, Skyway founder Jake Donahue fell into the college athletics space sort of by accident. He told me that he always loved sports, but growing up, originally planned on being a newspaper editor. Working as the editor of his college paper unlocked an interest in page layouts and graphic design, then photography.
Donahue spent years working as a real estate photographer, mastering the best ways to show off buildings for virtual tours. Combining that real estate photography skillset with the underserved athletic facilities market lead to the creation of Skyway.
Donahue doesn't mind flying out and shooting a facility, which he's done for college, major league and minor league facilities. But as the college business has expanded, he's also been happy to simply mail out cameras and instructions. Athletic department personnel on-site can shoot the raw photos, mail the equipment back, and Donahue takes the photos to build out the virtual tour, keeping costs down.
What's the actual use case here?
Sure, recruiting potential athletes plays a significant role.
"With football," Donahue told me, "most of these schools can fly people in. But the tennis team, maybe they can't fly in every recruit, especially if they're out in California. So these coaches get really excited about being able to showcase their stuff, their facilities, this way."
But it's not the only reason a university leader might want to set something like this up, according to Donahue.
"When I shot photos for the Arizona Cardinals stadium, for example, one staffer told me they were thrilled, just because they now had a tool to show back of the house staff where everything is. If like, the Rolling Stones show up, you can show the team, here is where they're going to unload the truck, here's where everything needs to go."
Other university leaders outside of the athletic department have used his services too. A school that say, heavily recruits international athletes, might decide to photograph their entire campus, so they can give more detailed, 360-caliber tours to families, or even prospective staffers, who can't easily visit. Donahue also sees potential in using the tools for campus-related organizations, like Greek Life, to show off their housing options or events.
These tours even have value to MMR or marketing partners. If a school is trying to sell scoreboard sponsorships, for example, being able to photograph the entire arena, allowing brands to see how different activations would look in practice, can be very valuable.
Plus, these just look cool. And in a copycat industry, that can be important!
College coaches and administrators are constantly looking over their shoulders, checking to see what other programs are doing. Donahue told me that interest picked up substantially whenever he was able to point to a project that another conference-mate had done.
"That's so often the first question we get...who else is doing it? And once we can show that hey, this SEC team did it, or the Boston Red Sox did this, that changes the conversation."
This is exactly what's happening with Skyway, as more P5 programs are reaching out and looking for ways to shoot not just one or two programs, but the entire athletic department, like Michigan did here.
The best possible use case requires schools to do things they're not good at....talk to each other. But the other use cases are still pretty good!
In my professional experience, personnel from central administration, various academic disciplines and athletes often don't talk enough about how to share resources and expertise. That's changing a little bit with the NIL world (suddenly, the football team becomes very aware that the business school exists!), but still not where it needs to be on every campus.
Deeply photographed and well-produced virtual tours are the sort of marketing expense that could probably benefit the entire university, or at least an entire department, not just one or two programs.
But even if only a handful of departments on campus take advantage of it, these tours give a school the opportunity to showcase their story to fans in a new way. I mean, how many of you have been in a D-I football locker room? Is anybody curious what meeting rooms or trophy rooms or various stadiums look like? Now you can really see it.
But beyond fans, it's a way to talk to recruits, to vendors, to families, to anybody who might want to work with your school. And in a post-NIL world, being able to tell that story feels more important than ever.
You can learn more about Skyway Interactive here.
Thanks for reading, everybody. Feel free to ping me at email@example.com, tweet me at @MattBrownEP, hit us up on Instagram at @ExtraPointsMB, or troll us on Reddit at /r/extrapointsmb. Questions about ad sales or sponsored posts can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org