COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Football was at the heart of Texas A&M's motivation for moving to the SEC, but it wasn't the only thing, nor was it everything.
Joining the country's premier football conference, one that has produced the last six BCS champions, was of great appeal, as was the tremendous media-rights revenue that comes with being an SEC member. But it was also an opportunity for the Aggies, at every step, to ensure that it turns into an opportunity for brand expansion.
"It's interesting that part of our deliberations in the conference move, we never did talk about what our football record was going to be in 2012," said Jason Cook, Texas A&M's vice president for marketing and communications. "This was truly a brand move for Texas A&M. Just like the University of Texas wants the Longhorn Network to expand their brand, we believe that the move to the SEC provides the opportunity to expand the Texas A&M brand on a national level."
And the effect has already been seen in Aggieland and beyond. Cook said that licensing revenues are up 23 percent in the last year. Texas A&M has become part of the national football discussion because of its move to the SEC, and that could be seen at SEC media days when the Aggies had the chance to introduce themselves.
"Texas A&M is part of the national conversation right now," Cook said. "We're coming off a 7-6 season, but if you look back, Texas A&M has been part of the national dialogue in the sports world for over a year now. Obviously, sometimes we stub our toe, and it's national news now. But that's what being a national brand is all about. So we're part of the media dialogue, the SEC media days was a tremendous platform for us to introduce Texas A&M to a new part of the country and a new group of media outlets, so you can look at it from a media attention standpoint and also from a collegiate licensing area."
Cook said Texas A&M is using the SEC move as a chance to "wipe the slate clean" and introduce Texas A&M to the rest of the country.
"A lot of people are interested in Texas A&M, they're wanting to learn about Texas A&M, yet not a lot of people understand that we have 50,000 students, that we are one of the top 20 universities in the country, that we have over $700 million in research that happens on our campus every year," Cook said. "They're wanting to find out more about us and sometimes they don't have the context of our traditions and our spirit and our sense of family that we have.
"But that's where we see the SEC move as a great opportunity to really wipe the slate clean and introduce people to the true Texas A&M brand without it being filtered by some of the other institutions here in the state of Texas."
Cook also said that Texas A&M works hard to ensure the brand stays consistent between athletics and the university, rather than the two being separate identities.
"Here at Texas A&M we have a completely different approach in that we truly have a one-brand approach," Cook said. "If you look at the logo on the side of our football helmets, it's the same logo for the academic side and we work in a very integrated manner, not only athletics but across marketing, communications and social media and then our licensing program as well. So we're a little unique in that manner. We have this one brand approach and a coordinated effort."