UI business school gets behind Lovie

UI business school gets behind Lovie

No, Lovie Smith doesn’t have a new dual appointment in the University of Illinois Gies College of Business.

The name emblazoned on the backdrop for the Illini football coach’s press conferences is part of a larger “branding” effort by the business college, which was named after donors Larry and Beth Gies a year ago.

The college purchased an Illini athletic sponsorship for $25,000 this year to get the new Gies name in front of the public.

Dean Jeffrey Brown, an economist who was once a brand manager at Procter and Gamble, has focused on branding since taking over as dean in 2015.

“It’s long been a criticism that the university doesn’t tell its story well. We allow ourselves to be out-marketed and out-competed by our peers,” Brown said.

He and Jan Slater, an advertising professor and chief marketing officer for the college, have pushed to get the Gies name in the spotlight — “who we are as a college and what makes us unique,” Brown said. “We’re putting some money behind it to go out and tell our story.”

The four-person communications staff has more than doubled in size, and the college is gearing up for other marketing efforts to raise its profile — including digital advertising, billboards along Interstate 57 and social media campaigns.

A large portion of the college’s alumni base follows Illini sports and has children deciding where to attend college, Brown said.

“We want to reach alumni and parents of prospective students,” he said. “It’s a great target audience for us.”

Illinois athletics spokesman Kent Brown said any sponsor can purchase the backdrop through Learfield Communications, which owns most sponsorship rights for Illini games. The Gies College of Business is the only one so far, though Dynegy has been a sponsor in the past, he said.

The backdrop is actually a digital screen that Learfield is testing at a half-dozen colleges this year as a prototype, he said.