Penn State on the Rebound

By: Alexandria Jenkins

An entire nation was left shocked and speechless when news of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal surfaced in November 2011. The Penn State community fell victim to the horrifying betrayal of its former defensive coordinator and was forced to sit by idly as the effects of the crime rippled through “Happy Valley.” For university officials, students, fans and alumni alike, nothing could have proven more sickening than the life-long damage inflicted on Sandusky’s victims.

Then, as if to rub salt in the wound, the NCAA imposed an unprecedented $60 million, five-year fine and four-year postseason ban on the Nittany Lions. Additionally, numerous sponsors cut ties with the university, with along with other costs associated with the scandal brought the school’s total estimated losses attributed to the scandal to $46 million and counting over the past 17 months, according to an article posted by Advertising Age.

Since Dec. 31, 2012, Penn State says it has spent more than $41 million on NCAA fines, legal and consulting fees. Advertising Age added that the university has lost more than $1 million in sponsorship/advertising after companies like General Motors, Cars.com and Sherwin Williams pulled their support for the football team, while forfeiting another $700,000 in licensing royalties from merchandise sales. Furthermore, This month, Penn State will shell out $3.25 million to the Big Ten Conference to be donated to children’s charities as part of the first installment of a four-year, $13 million penalty, according to Scott Chipman, the Conference’s Assistant Commissioner.

Now, six months removed from Sandusky’s trial, Penn State is finally starting its uphill battle towards financial recovery. After pulling its ads in late 2011 “out of respect for those involved,” Cars.com returned to football telecasts last season and has announced plans of staying on for 2013-2014. There is also hope of potential sponsorships with Chevy and State Farm, although no deals have been finalized.

The shamed Penn State brand is also showing signs of recovery. According to Marketing Arm, Penn State ranked in the top five most-trusted NCAA properties in June 2011. By January 2012, the university had fallen to last place among 104 nationally measured schools. It bounced back to the mid-60s in 2012, now ranking among well-respected schools like Stanford, Michigan and Harvard.

Despite all of this, Cynthia Hall, Penn State’s acting Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, said that the university did not increase its overall marketing budget since the scandal occurred.

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