Loyola’s historic NCAA tournament success has already changed the atmosphere on campus. The once sports-indifferent student body has packed the student center, local bars, academic buildings and pretty much anywhere with a TV to watch the Ramblers head to the Sweet 16 for the first time in more than three decades. But this paradigm shift extends beyond Loyola’s campuses.
The tournament has given Loyola a rare opportunity to elevate its status and put itself on the map for more prospective students, according to Jeremy Darlow, former head of brand marketing for Adidas football and baseball and author of the book “Brands Win Championships.”
Darlow praised what he called Loyola’s “brand positioning” — a brand’s desired place in its customers’ minds — and said Loyola should make the most of its newfound recognition.
“I think the success and the number of people watching and paying attention and talking about the tournament obviously brings attention to what makes that school unique and different within the landscape,” Darlow said.
Darlow said Loyola has several elements that help it captivate the minds of fans and prospective students: namely, Sister Jean, the team’s 98-year-old chaplain.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a sister on the court,” Darlow said. “I think that’s just a unique story in general and the sort of Cinderella story that goes along with it on the basketball court combined just brings people happiness and excitement and something that they can cheer for. It’s a feel-good story that I think everybody can get behind.”
Loyola could feel the effects of that feel-good story in its admissions office. Since its victory at Arch Madness on March 4, Google searches for Loyola have increased by more than 14 times.
Fans have scoured for Loyola gear such as Sister Jean bobble heads and the iconic maroon and gold scarves, which are sold out at bookstores and online.
That recognition can translate to huge increases in applications. In what’s known as the “Flutie effect” — named for the jump in applications at Boston College after quarterback Doug Flutie beat Miami with a Hail Mary pass in 1984 — universities that experience unexpected athletic fortune see substantial increases in applications the next year.
After its back-to-back March Madness successes in 2010 and 2011, Butler University saw its applications increase more than 50 percent.
Loyola has spent heavily on its athletic programs in recent years, which Darlow said is the best way to make the most of Loyola’s historic run. In the past year, Loyola’s Gentile Arena got a $1.4 million update, Loyola unveiled plans for an $18.5 million practice facility and men’s basketball coach Porter Moser was given a pay raise.
To capitalize on the potential admissions boon, Darlow said Loyola should continue its investment.
“Strike while the iron’s hot,” Darlow said. “People are paying attention when they otherwise shouldn’t be paying attention so now is the time to put money in and invest, get the word out, speak to what that positioning is and scream from the mountaintops.”