Going Pro

I have a love/hate relationship with the NCAA's Public Service Announcements on Going Pro. Here's a recent one called "Beyond the Boundaries":

See? Nowhere to land. On the one hand, it captivates my attention, makes good use of visual effects and sounds inspirational as the voice-over proclaims, "There are over 400,000 NCAA student athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports."

That's the one hand. On the other, I have no idea why they made this commercial.

I asked a friend and college coach to explain Why to me. He sounded articulate and I think I even nodded my head in genuine agreement a few times. When I walked away, I realized I was back where I started: still confusedly impressed.

Next I looked online for Why and found, among very little else, the making of last year's PSA, "Shoe." Pam Thomas, director of the spot, said, "I love that...when he's revealing wing-tips you understand that this is a student athlete who's gonna go beyond athleticism and use his education in other ways. That's sort of what these NCAA spots are all about."

Pam's comment basically said what the PSA said, and that's when I realized I wasn't going to "get" this announcement. I'm simply not in its audience. While most commercials talk to the general consumer and PSAs advocate commonly valued values, "Shoe" and "Beyond the Boundaries" and others like them have someone else in mind.

But Who? Eighteen-to-fifty-year-old men who watch college Bowl games and forget that Florida State is an educational institution? Concerned parents of student athletes? Disillusioned scholarship hopefuls? Post-college job recruiters? TV viewers like me who appreciate creative ads?

That last guess aside, I honestly have no idea. So I have to appreciate it for what it is and be okay with assuming that since it's a PSA, the NCAA must have recognized the need to share an important message; possibly even to care for a neighbor.

Feel free to enlighten me. Or, just enjoy the announcements and remain confusedly impressed.


Anonymous,  January 27, 2010 at 9:14 AM  

I'm in your boat: Entertained & Confused.

When I first saw these spots, my guess for the target was the athletes themselves: to let them know that there is value in college sports but also necessity for education to prepare them for what comes after graduation (which, for the majority, is NOT a professional sports career).

M.joshua January 27, 2010 at 9:40 AM  

I agree. Good spot. It just makes me sad. Like, "You're not gonna live up to your dreams. Instead, you're gonna go work a boring job. Just wanted to let you know..."

Thanks for the sobering cold, hard reality, NCAA. Now, I don't even think I wanna play sports anymore...

Sam Van Eman January 27, 2010 at 10:28 AM  

Fair guess, Erin, and like M.joshua said, what a sobering reminder. How many 7th graders who dream of going pro think beyond that?

I'm not a fan of squashing dreams, but statistically....

So, maybe the audience is the dreamers.

Anonymous,  January 27, 2010 at 1:09 PM  

M.joshua's comments made me giggle. So sad to tell young people that you need a back up plan b/c you aren't likely (statistically speaking) to make your sports dream a reality.

Even though this is a harsh dose of reality, couldn't this be a way of EXPANDING DREAMS to envelope more than just sports (to have fun in sports-related passions but to also develop an academic passion as well)? Or am I reading too much into it and giving NCAA too much credit?

I'm a dreamer by nature, but these spots did not irritate me like other practical, bubble-bursting commentary normally does.

Sam Van Eman January 27, 2010 at 2:41 PM  

Interesting thought, Erin. This might introduce two more audiences to our growing list. One is that group of (mostly?) boys and their fathers who push them relentlessly toward athletic success.

The other is the myopic college-bound group whose lives have been so voluntarily obsessed with sports year around since toddlerhood that they've neglected other latent interests and passions.

Too much credit to NCAA? Maybe. But I can certainly imagine kid one or kid two being sparked, even in a small way, by these PSAs.

K,  January 28, 2010 at 3:49 PM  

My almost-13-year old son gets it. And he is exactly who this is aimed at, if you ask me. (Granted, he's an 'advertising message junkie'... I've trained him well...) He has his heart set on going to a specific D-1 football school on an athletic scholarship and becoming an engineer. That being said, he's the smallest kid on his team, and doesn't have much genetic hope for becoming "D-1 sized"... yet he realizes that this ad campaign is TOTALLY targeted to him... and he likes that! So NCAA... keep it up!

Sam Van Eman January 28, 2010 at 4:06 PM  

Yes! A target audience member speaks. Thanks, K, for the first-hand testimony. Your son sounds like a pretty bright kid.

Here's to a great football and engineering career!

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