For a number of years, I had a Xavier basketball sitting on the bookshelf in my office. It was light blue with the old sports logo—the one where the Musketeer is decked out in knee-high boots and feathered hat, and is dribbling a basketball as its cape blows in the wind.
I call that old school. Others call it retro. The sports marketing world calls it a throwback. Throwbacks are big these days. Hats, jerseys. Some people are really into throwback gear because it brings back memories. Really, though, the purpose of throwbacks is marketing and money. Teams wear the gear once and then it’s sold at a premium afterward, its uniqueness making it valuable.
The fact that the gear is sold is not much of a surprise. If you want to know why anything in the world of sports (and in life) is done just follow the money.
The question, though, becomes what happens to the money? Most often it goes back into the budget. Occasionally, however, it goes to a greater cause. Such as the case of Xavier’s latest sports marketing effort.
In a game on Jan. 12, the men’s basketball team wore special uniforms. They weren’t throwbacks, but they were unique and were created with the intention of auctioning them off after the game to make money. What made them unique is that instead of saying “Xavier” across the chest, the jerseys were all inscribed with the words “Sandy Hook”—the name of the grade school in Connecticut where 20 children were gunned down in December. The uniforms were trimmed in the school’s green colors and included the school’s mascot, an eagle, on the shorts.
The idea of the uniforms and auction came from Xavier’s coaches and players, and it caught the attention of Scott Zimmer of Frankenmuth, Mich., some 300 miles north of Cincinnati. Zimmer is a member of the city’s school board and a longtime neighbor of Brad Redford, Xavier’s senior shooting guard. Redford used to babysit Zimmer’s sons, and Zimmer thought buying the uniform would be a good way to honor both Redford and Sandy Hook. So he sent out a few emails explaining his idea.
Within 10 minutes the responses—and contributions—started rolling in. Over the course of the next two weeks, he collected $4,000 from 34 families and businesses, who donated anywhere from $20 to $500.
On Jan. 12, a group from Frankenmuth came down to attend the Xavier game against George Washington University, collect their jersey and return it to Michigan, where it will be put on display in Redford’s old high school.
In all, 26 Sandy Hook items were purchased (the jerseys and shorts were sold separately) and $10,250 raised. The money was donated to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
In today’s society, it’s easy to get a bit cynical about all the gimmicks and promotions and money-making efforts that take place in sports. Which is why, I think, it’s even that much more refreshing when efforts like this take place—where decisions are made and actions are taken not for profit but for the greater good. And where the results make a difference to the lives of others in places like Frankenmuth, Mich., and Newtown, Conn.