NKU Studies Brand Perception Changes After D1 Athletics Move Utilizing A Custom Sample Blend From EMI

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NKU Studies Brand Perception Changes After D1 Athletics Move Utilizing A Custom Sample Blend From EMI

In 2011, Northern Kentucky University (NKU) decided to move up an athletic division, from Division 2 to Division 1.  This decision considered not only athletics but how the university could improve their overall positioning and impression both regionally and nationally.

To understand how NKU was viewed in the Cincinnati region, before and after the announcement, they decided to do a long-term tracker. The first wave was fielded in 2012 and a second wave in 2018.  To help them get the best sample possible for their study, they turned to EMI Research Solutions.

EMI prides itself in giving back to the community, whether it is through volunteer time of its employees, financial donations to worthy causes, or even donating our services to assist with community efforts.  NKU and EMI have a relationship going back almost decade, so when they presented their study idea to EMI and asked for us to assist, we were only too happy to donate the sample they needed.

After some initial meetings with Dr. Aron Levin, who was leading the project at NKU, EMI put together a custom sample plan that not only provided the needed completes, but also ensured data consistency so that results could be compared wave-to-wave with no bias or inconsistencies.  The plan targeted the Cincinnati metro-area (Kenton, Campbell, Boone, Hamilton and Clermont counties), going as far north as Dayton and Montgomery County, and balanced for age and gender among the population by zip code.

The methodology of the 2018 study was kept consistent with that of the 2012 study. 507 Greater Cincinnati residents completed a survey with the same questions as the 2012 study.

When comparing both studies, NKU found that the overall familiarity of NKU had increased 9%, with the largest increases in Hamilton and Clermont counties. These findings were very encouraging, as Ohio counties represent the greatest opportunities for growth for NKU. In addition, NKU ranked third in T2B familiarity when compared to competitors with Northern Kentucky counties being more familiar than Ohio counties.

Overall impression increased by two percentage points from 2012 to 2018. However, it is very encouraging that among Hamilton County residents, there was a significant increase from 33% T2B score to 44%. Kentucky residents’ impression of NKU was higher than their impression of the University of Cincinnati.

Respondents rated several attributes, and most of these measures remained flat over the 6-year time-period of interest. However, NKU’s athletic programs received a 4% bump from 2012 to 2018. NKU’s top 3 key attributes included campus safety, overall value, and quality of faculty.

In regard to NKU’s transition to Division 1, only 25% of those surveyed were aware that NKU is now Division 1. Those who ranked NKU high for overall impression were more likely to be aware that NKU is a Division 1 school. Brand awareness rose dramatically in counties of interest since the school became Division 1.

Some additional findings included that respondents who have not received a bachelor’s degree or higher had a more favorable view of NKU. Overall impression was highest among those 35 and younger. NKU ranked third in terms of how many respondents had been there within the last 5 years, and it was found that campus visits drive overall impression and perception of key attributes.

One recommendation that students developed was to better communicate Division 1 status to sports fans, particularly those in middle school and high school. It was also recommended that the school build familiarity in Ohio counties to eventually build on the overall impression in the community.

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