Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel has made quite a name, or names, for himself.  The first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, defeated the #1 Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Cotton Bowl route of Oklahoma and the creation of a sports community icon known simply as – Johnny Football.

Prior to the 2012 football season, the school’s first in the Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M was faced with the challenge of breaking into what has been college football’s most dominant conference having won the last six national championships – and possibly a seventh in a row should Alabama beat Notre Dame Monday.  The challenge on the field is obvious, but potentially more challenging is breaking through the mindshare of football fans in the region; searching for that share of voice when dealing with programs like Florida, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama.

Manziel’s rise to the forefront of college football came at the best possible moment for Texas A&M; giving the school a message and a story that attracted people and media from across the country.  With Manziel, A&M was no longer struggling for headlines in the SEC but making front page news from coast to coast.

Born was the Johnny Football brand.
The Johnny Football brand is simplistic and pure, similar traits that represent the identity of college football.  Unlike the glitz and glamour of professional sports – Johnny Football truly plays for the love of the game.  Contrary to the modern day athlete, Manziel himself has not sought the headlines or limelight, only making himself available to the media for the first time after the end of the regular season prior to the Heisman ceremony.

In the wake of Manziel’s success, and the success of the A&M football team, the university has launched a significant marketing campaign.  Unlike most collegiate athletic marketing campaigns that feature teams or coaches, this campaign thrusts Manziel alone to the front of all messaging.

A&M purchased a placement on a billboard in Times Square, which was described by ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell as “an extravagant spend.”  Also included in the campaign were online ads featured nationally on ESPN.com and SI.com with regional placements with the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News.  Athletic apparel provider adidas has produced T-shirts featuring the A&M logo and Heisman imagery that the school intends to sell at retail.

It’s too soon to know, but it appears that Texas A&M should greatly benefit financially from the Johnny Manziel phenomenon.

Money changes things…
A university should benefit from the success of its team and players, but is there a line between capitalization and exploitation?  Keep in mind the NCAA fights diligently to maintain the integrity of its student athletes and their amateur status.  Student athletes are strongly prohibited from receiving any financial benefit from promotional activity; to the point that the NCAA won’t allow video games to feature player’s names, only their numbers.

Through the rise of Manziel, the school has been working to trademark Johnny Football – to own the Johnny Football brand.  Manziel and his family will not receive financial benefit beyond what is granted from his student athlete scholarship.

Should Texas A&M own Johnny Football?
The Sports Business Journal recently published a survey related to issues facing the sporting world, and another study stated the number one perceived issue facing collegiate athletics is that of financial compensation to the athletes.  With media rights fees in the hundreds of millions of dollars combined with all the money being generated by college athletics, should the athletes be compensated?