OK, I’m not a big basketball fan. Still, I’m very glad that Murray State University is on a winning streak. But, really, for Murray State’s comms people to suggest that more visibility for the basketball team means it’s having a positive economic impact on the University is not just flawed reasoning, it’s economic suicide.
Shawn Touney, director of communication at Murray, threw out an AVE-derived number of $46 million for just a month-and-a-half of the home team’s basketball coverage:
“There’s about a six-week stretch from December 1 through roughly the third week of January where we had roughly $46 million in what they call an advertising value equivalency,” Touney said.
Yep, and this from an institution of higher learning: “…in what they call advertising value equivalency.”
Now, one of two things is going to happen. Either Kentucky state officials, particularly those who approve educational funding, are going to start wondering why they need to even support the University at all if it’s bringing in $46 million every six weeks.
But of course it’s obvious, (well, at least to anyone who hasn’t lived under a rock since the Barcelona Principles came out), that Mr. Touney is using a made-up and ridiculously large number in an attempt to impress a sports journalist and maybe some boosters, politicians and the new president of the university that arrived this month.
And so a second possibility is more likely: some percentage of alumni, fans, and better-informed people on the University’s Board of Regents and at the State House will see through the phony numbers. They will wonder why Mr. Touney is so wildly flailing about in a effort to justify his PR efforts. Hopefully he’ll be challenged—if not for spouting inflated statistics, then at least for MWI: Measurement While Ignorant.
OK, to give MSU a little bit of credit, they did mention hotel rooms, ticket sales, and increased university applicants as potentially measurable results of their successful basketball team. Good ideas, and all things that PR could be contributing to. The problem is that they aren’t actually tracking them. So MSU may be winning on the basketball court, but they’re losing on the communications front.