Big West’s new hire, partnership could help improve conference’s branding

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Brandon Darmiento, Reporter

The Big West Conference announced the hiring of Tom Davis as the new associate commissioner of external relations and chief marketing officer earlier this month. The hiring of Davis presents an opportunity for the Big West Conference to redevelop and improve their marketing and branding tactics.

Davis has experience in many facets of marketing including branding, broadcasting, sponsorship and content creation. He served as the president and co-director of Caught Looking, Inc., a marketing, branding and content production agency in Los Angeles for 10 years. He has previous experience in marketing and sponsorship positions at Southern Illinois University and Marquette University and as the General Manager at UCLA for the multimedia rights holder International Sports Properties making this fourth position in collegiate athletics.

Most recently Davis led a rebranding strategy for the Mountain West Conference that included market research, logo design, producing and directing national public service announcements, radio and print advertising campaigns, social media and venue marketing according to the Big West’s press release.

“In my mind, the biggest similarity between where the Mountain West was and where the Big West is now is with the membership,” Davis said. “With new membership, there is a natural opportunity to work cooperatively with the 11 member institutions to redefine what the Big West brand will be as the new era unfolds.”

In his new role, Davis will serve as the contact for the conference’s external relations team and will lead research to define the new brand of the Big West by understanding the history of both academics and athletics. The conference will use existing research and conduct new research to get a sense of its own image. The new research will be done in the form of personal interviews with both internal and external audiences. In addition, a field survey asking specific questions will be done to expand upon these observations.

“The brand of the Big West is a culmination of everything that happens at all schools in the conference,” Davis said. “We’re trying to figure out who we are and what our conference stands for, athletics is the front porch.”

With the men’s basketball season poised to return later this month, the conference faces challenges in how they will facilitate fan engagement in this unprecedented season.

“We’re in a situation that’s unique — fans can’t enjoy watching their teams play,” Davis said. “Streaming is the only way to follow the teams they care about. We want them to be involved in whatever level they can be. The same avenues of marketing and branding aren’t available.”

The announcement of Davis’ hiring came less than two weeks after the Big West announced an agreement with the Collegiate Licensing Company, the nation’s leading collegiate trademark licensing company. CLC manages the licensing for four of the Power Five Conferences, which are Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC, over 700 universities in the country and even collegiate properties such as the NCAA and the Rose Bowl Game.

Their new partnership with the Big West will involve managing the conference’s trademark licensing program through 2027. In addition, the Big West will utilize CLC’s relationships with licensees and retailers, consumer marketing programs and brand protection services, according to the Big West. The move is expected to increase the exposure and revenues for both the conference and its individual universities.

“I worked with CLC through the years and they are the best in the [business] space at what they do,” Davis said. “The reach and knowledge base that they have will help us find ways to get our merchandise and logos out.”

The hiring of Davis and the Big West’s partnership with the CLC signify a new era for the conference and an exciting chance to become a bigger player in collegiate sports.