STUDENT-ATHLETE INVOLVEMENT IN
INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS PUBLIC SERVICE
GREAT REWARD AND GREAT RISK
University of Louisville Ph.D. Student
This presentation features the
Tough Enough, Smart Enough PSA
program created at the University
FORUM TOPICS ADDRESSED
Four of the five forum topics are addressed in this presentation:
1. The role and responsibilities athletes have beyond the playing field.
2. The ways athletes can serve as educators and advocates to address social
problems within and outside sport.
3. The roles institutions play in providing grounding for athletes to make
connections between athletics, academics and the community.
4. The role and impact of media in how athletes can effect social change.
WHAT A PSA IS. WHAT A PSA IS NOT.
A Public Service Announcement is not an
advertisement. An advertisement is intended to
sell a product or service.
A Public Service Announcement is a message that
is intended to impact behavior in a positive way.
These messages are often provided by the media
to the PSA creator at no charge.
Examples of PSA messages you may know include:
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers PSAs, Arbor Day’s
“Plant a Tree” PSAs (sung by John Denver), and
USDA Forest Service fire prevention PSAs featuring
Smokey the Bear.
THE ILLINOIS PSA PLAN
Tough Enough, Smart Enough: Tough Enough to make the right choice. Strong
Enough to lead others to do the same.
1) Identify student-athletes that could be trusted to serve as PSA spokespeople.
2) Identify “safe” PSA messages geared toward a younger audience that admires
student-athletes and coaches for a statewide PSA program (stay
healthy, read, don’t do drugs, keep the environment clean, etc.).
3) Create print, radio, TV, and billboard samples.
4) Convince media partners to join the PSA program
5) Distribute PSAs
6) Refresh PSAs multiple times per year to keep the program current and interesting
7) “Renew” Tough Enough, Smart Enough media partners each year
HOW STUDENT-ATHLETES WERE
SELECTED FOR PARTICIPATION
In an ideal world, each of the following conditions would be met:
1) Great athlete. You want people to identify with the success of the
spokesperson and transfer positive feelings about them to the message.
2) Great student. You obviously need students that remain eligible; if they are
academic All-America or all-conference team members even better.
3) Great character.
THE NON-NEGOTIABLE QUALITY FOR
STUDENT-ATHLETE PSA PROGRAM
You want students who are less likely to have an issue that undercuts the
positive messages of the PSA program.
More importantly, you want people who are less likely to negatively impact
the University and intercollegiate athletics brands as well as their own personal
Big microphones should be reserved for high character people when big
brands and big PSA campaigns are involved.
CREATE A SYSTEM TO IDENTIFY GREAT
Talk with the intercollegiate athletics academics staff. Why?
1) They have a close relationship with student-athletes.
2) They hear a lot of things in study halls and in other communication
with student-athletes across all sports.
3) They tend to be more neutral than a coach who may want to
promote student-athletes based on athletic performance rather than
Talk with the coach. Why?
1) The coach may have insights that the academics staff doesn’t have.
2) The coach should approve the student-athlete participation and
have awareness of it as the manager of that sport.
HOW DO YOU FILTER THE
PARTICIPATION OF YOUR
MAJOR SPORT COACHES?
In many cases, you may not be allowed to do so.
They are your coaches. You need to promote your major programs. Because
this program can have powerful reach if properly executed, you will likely feel
pressure to include a major coach even if he/she has a troubled past. Unless
a major coach has had a very recent public issue that is still a hot topic, the
AD will likely expect to see them participate in the program.
And, perhaps, so will the coach!
If you have major coaches with a major history of PR problems, then it may not
be the right time to start a PSA program of this nature at your school.
GREAT MARKETING BENEFIT FOR
PSA programs give you a chance to create a significant media presence for
non-revenue sports that marketing departments may not be able to justify to
athletic directors when you have to buy an advertisement.
This allows non-revenue sport figures to build their personal brands. It could
also enhance attendance at these sports.
SCOTT LANGLEY: NCAA CHAMPION
Scott Langley was the NCAA
Champion in men’s golf. Yet, it was
challenging to justify buying ads to
promote men’s golf from a
However, Langley was a high
character student-athlete with
name recognition. Tough
Enough, Smart Enough allowed
Langley to receive some of the
exposure he deserved.
JANET RAYFIELD: SOCCER COACH
Janet Rayfield has appeared in the
NCAA Tournament 10 times in 12
seasons at Illinois including 3 Sweet
Sixteens. However, it is challenging
to justify giving women’s soccer the
same advertising exposure as
football or men’s basketball from a
cost/benefit standpoint. Tough
Enough, Smart Enough levels the
exposure playing field.
THE MEDIA RESPONSE TO
TOUGH ENOUGH, SMART ENOUGH
After seeing the PSA option related to their media format and learning about
the program, 87 partners across the state of Illinois opted to participate:
1) 55 radio partners including Chicago’s WGN 720 AM, WSCR 670 AM
“The Score” and WIND 560 AM
2) 23 newspaper partners
3) Adams Outdoor Advertising in Champaign and Peoria
4) 7 television partners including the Big Ten Network, WGN, and
ALLOW YOURSELF TO GUESS HOW MUCH
ADVERTISING VALUE THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS’
TOUGH ENOUGH, SMART ENOUGH PSA
CAMPAIGN EQUATED TO IN THE FIRST YEAR.
KEEP IN MIND, ILLINOIS DIDN’T BUY A SINGLE
ONE OF THESE PSA PLACEMENTS.
ARE THERE ANY POSSIBLE NEGATIVES
THAT COULD OCCUR WITH A PSA
PROGRAM OF THIS NATURE?
The biggest threat exists in poor student-athlete selection for
a major branding initiative like a PSA program or large-scale
You would not want to select a current or former student-athlete to appear on
a billboard because of his/her pro sports or Olympic potential if that student-
athlete had a history that indicated possible risk.
AVOIDING A RISKY
Josh Brent played at Illinois when Tough Enough, Smart Enough started. He
was a NFL prospect. But, two years before the program started,…
THE DECISION WAS EASY
The Illinois intercollegiate athletics staff liked Josh
Brent. We also thought he was a legitimate NFL
prospect. But the marketing department did not
even consider taking Josh’s name to academics or to
the coach because of this incident.
The risk was too high and it was not necessary.
After the Tough Enough, Smart Enough Program was in place, Illinois
decided to create a statewide paid advertising campaign called
“Illinois: Our State. Our Team” to brand the intercollegiate athletics
Among the student-athletes selected to appear in the new
billboard campaign was Josh Brent.
He was now a member of the Dallas Cowboys along with
former Illinois football player Jerry Brown.
The press release about the new billboards went out on Dec.
THE VERY NEXT NIGHT (INTO THE
EARLY HOURS OF DEC. 8)…
Brown died in
a car crash in
a license from
his prior DUI.
TOUGH ENOUGH, SMART ENOUGH
IMPACT FROM THE BRENT INCIDENT
The incident did not directly impact the Tough
Enough, Smart Enough campaign because Josh Brent
was not involved in the PSA program.
This was due to the steps that had been implemented
to prevent a choice that would risk the program.
These steps clearly should have been applied to all
advertising associated with such a major brand.
GREAT REWARD, GREAT RISK
PSA program rewards are great.
1) Illinois was able to put its brand in 87 media outlets sharing positive
messages to people throughout the Land of Lincoln.
2) Hopefully some kids were positively impacted by these messages.
3) The PSA value (if purchased) exceeded $1 million in year one.
4) Non-revenue sport exposure was able to be increased without the
need to justify it in a cost/benefit analysis.
PSA program risks are great.
1) You must be careful selecting your PSA campaign participants.
2) You can reduce this risk by taking an educated approach to PSA
candidate selection and including multiple voices in the process.
Associated Press with Pantagraph Staff (2009, June 11). CCHS grad, Illini DL Josh Brent jailed after DUI
guilty plea. Retrieved March 20, 2014 from http://www.pantagraph.com/sports/college/illinois/cchs-
Associated Press (2012, Dec. 8). Dallas Player Dies in Crash; A Teammate is Charged. Retrieved
March 20, 2014 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/sports/football/cowboys-josh-brent-
University of Illinois (2011, Jan. 5). Tough enough smart enough scores big. Retrieved March 20, 2014
University of Illinois (2012, Dec. 6). Illinois Launches Statewide Billboard Program. Retrieved March
20, 2014 from http://www.fightingillini.com/genrel/120612aaa.html
University of Illinois (2013). Tough enough smart enough. Retrieved March 20, 2014 from
USDA Forest Service (2011, June 29). Smokey Bear returns to remind Americans…”Only you can
prevent forest fires.” Retrieved March 20, 2014 from
University of Louisville
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