Book Review: "Brands Win Championships" by Jeremy Darlow

Once upon a time, the game franchise that had me hooked was NCAA Football. In game play, it was nearly identical to it's professional counterpart, Madden, in almost every way. For the few like me, the differentiator that made this game shine was the Dynasty mode, specifically the recruiting aspect. Your program of choice (Hook 'em Horns!) will have a performance ceiling you'll find quickly by the level of recruits you are able to sign. In the game, recruits were swayed by a number of factors including play calling style, academics, coach promises, winning big games, and more.

Even in the early iterations of the game, they included a recruiting factor "Program Prestige" which in the real world equates to what we would now call the program's brand. It was a major factor in signing the best recruits possible. In the game, the only input you had on adjusting your program's prestige was through winning games on the field yourself. In reality, Athletic Directors can't be on the field getting manhandled by gigantic teenagers. Athletic Directors can still have an effect on their brand though.

In "Brands Win Championships," author Jeremy Darlow contends (quite successfully) that in the real world today, a school's brand is the most important factor in not only winning recruiting battles, but the championship at the end of the rainbow. Recruits want to be associated with a program because of how that program is perceived. The better your brand is perceived, the better recruits you sign, the better you perform, the better your brand is perceived. It's a cycle, and the easiest part to impact is the perception of the brand.

 The best part is you don't need to be a Division I Athletics Director to get use out of this book. That same feedback loop cycle is true of every brand, with your audience being the potential recruits. The potential cross-applications of these high-level brand building strategies and simple, guerrilla campaign ideas are limitless. If you are marketing anything across any medium, Jeremy's creativity will have you inspired with ideas to strengthen and promote your brand identity to your audience.

There are a number of straight up brand strategies (both for Social Media as well as the real world) outlined that anyone can quickly read and successfully execute day one. Jeremy also goes deeper into brand theory and development in the second section of the book. Reading this part of the book will cause you to reevaluate your own brand, personal or professional, through a critical lens and come out better for it on the other side.

I've read the book multiple times now, and I keep it on my desk as I've been referring back to it quite often recently. You'll definitely get a kick out of it if you're into college athletics, and it's an essential read for anyone with a vested interest in branding and marketing.

You can find Jeremy on Twitter at @JeremyDarlow and buy the book at the website.