Millions of basketball fans thought the Peacocks’ feathers would be plucked in the opening round.
Instead, Saint Peter’s is the latest Cinderella to show that March upsets lead to financial benefits—and teams don’t need to wait until after the tournament to harness them. The Peacocks are in the middle of their best run in program history—only the third No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16—after knocking off perennial power Kentucky and Murray State last week.
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The improbable run is already paying dividends.
“We’re going to win on Friday, and the value is going to increase even more,” Saint Peter’s director of athletics Rachelle Paul said on the Sporticast podcast this week.
Paul, who’s in her third year as AD, didn’t want to put an exact dollar figure on the marketing exposure and financial returns since the program’s run is fresh and ongoing. But she did confirm a boost, perhaps most notably when it comes to merchandise. The program’s athletics online team store has generated more than $19,000 worth of sales since the 85-79 win over Kentucky last Thursday.
“It could’ve taken us maybe 10 months to a year, if not longer, to raise $19,000 in merchandise sales from our online web store,” Paul said. “I could be grossly overstating that, but we don’t get much traffic there at all.”
Saint Peter’s, a private Jesuit school in Jersey City, is capturing the moment with outfitter Adidas, which is sponsoring and promoting its athletes through its new NIL initiative. The program’s newfound attention, increasing its Twitter following by 10,000 in one week, has already created a stronger avenue for athletes to receive more NIL opportunities. Saint Peter’s star Doug Edert, whose handle (@DougEdert2) has grown 43x on Twitter, announced a deal with Buffalo Wild Wings earlier this week.
T-shirt companies have reached out and are providing some tournament-inspired swag for the Peacocks fanbase. Other outside sponsors have stepped in to transport fans the roughly 100 miles to Wells Fargo Center in nearby Philadelphia for the Sweet 16 matchup with Purdue. The program will even grab a bigger spot on the national stage, appearing in commercials running on CBS and on a billboard in Times Square.
Paul also said the school has seen an increase in applications and applicant inquiries. In fact, the website briefly crashed shortly after the opening round win over Kentucky due to high traffic.
Apex Marketing said Saint Peter’s run has created more than $70 million in marketing exposure, though researchers often dispute such figures, saying marketing value is hard to measure.
The Peacocks’ small athletic department has had all hands on deck as it tries to accommodate ticket demands from alumni and fans while navigating national media attention. It’s unclear how long the magic will last, but the program hopes this will be a trend for its men’s basketball team moving forward.
Retaining head coach Shaheen Holloway could play a major factor in sustaining momentum, but history shows that small-school coaches usually leverage March Madness moments to move on to larger and more lucrative Division I programs. Paul, a former associate AD at Seton Hall, admits Saint Peter’s might not be able to compete with more prestigious programs from a salary standpoint. While Holloway, a former Seton Hall star player, has been rumored to be the next head coach for the Pirates, Paul says there’s been no conversation with him about a potential departure.
“It’s my job to do whatever I can to keep him here.”