College football marketing and public relations: Week 4 hits and misses

September 23, 2014
Texas A&M mascot Reveille and Cadet Ryan Kreider

Texas A&M mascot Reveille and Cadet Ryan Kreider (via Texas A&M University’s Facebook page)

Football’s off-the-field drama has consumed headlines, Twitter and television screens unlike ever before, and in Week 4 that bled down to the collegiate level. While we’ve got no shortage of misses this week, fear not—we were able to scrounge up some feel-good stuff, too. Check out everything we chalked up in our weekly batch of college football marketing and public relations hits and misses. 


Baylor’s bye week content

If you’re a college football player, bye weeks are awesome. Injured? This will buy (no pun intended) you more recovery time. Tough opponent ahead? More time to prep. Now, if you’re a college football fan, bye weeks are not awesome. Come game day, you’re standing alone at the snack table while everyone else is on the dance floor.

And if your gig calls for marketing the team and program, bye weeks are tricky. You’re void of the usual trove of content (game previews, press conferences, game day promotions etc.). But just because the team has a week off from play, doesn’t mean its marketing should, too. Keeping your audience engaged is crucial. During its bye in Week 4, Baylor’s crew excelled at this.

Baylor’s social media team didn’t pull back and focused on different angles to give its followers plenty to snack on. On Twitter, the Bears showcased a behind-the-scenes look at high-profile visitors Sports Illustrated and BBC News who were developing stories on the team.

Even though the team didn’t have a highlight video to share with fans on Sunday, the team still gave its fans a video to show what the Bears had been up to. The “Baylor Bye Week Workout” shows the team grinding in the weight room complete with motivational voice over, pump up music—you know the drill.

We’re not saying this is an Oscar-winning film by any means. But the fact Baylor’s social media crew still engaged fans throughout a bye week is something other schools need to note. So though the Bears didn’t compete this weekend, they walked away with a victory in our book for their fans-first thinking.

Texas A&M cadet saves the mascot, becomes a hero

During the second quarter of the Aggies’ wide victory Saturday, one of SMU’s wide receivers stumbled out of bounds nearly trampling Texas A&M’s mascot, Reveille (an adorable collie). Thankfully, Cadet Ryan Kreider (a Texas A&M sophomore) threw himself in front of the pup, blocking Der’rikk Thompson and saving Reveille. Kreider was one of the mascot’s handlers for the game. His act of heroism was celebrated among fans, viewers and  Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets (and Rev, of course).

Kreider was rewarded with a pair of senior boots–a Corps of Cadets tradition—and junior/senior privileges. This “miss” actually turned out to be hit for us by tugging at our heartstrings (and snagging some great PR for the Aggies).


Coke Zero FanCam

Coke Zero has been all up in college football this season with its “zero means it’s game day” campaign—a partnership with ESPN’s College Gameday. The slogan refers to the countdown to game day, so when you get to zero on your countdown, it’s time. (I spelled this out for y’all because I didn’t get it, initially. Personally, I think it’s confusing without having countdown somewhere in there.) Some examples of the efforts include Twitter hashtags calling for college football fan photo submissions, but the most notable effort is the “FanCam.” This is a feature where Coke Zero provides a 360-degree photo of the stadium. After the game, you can go find yourself in the photo and tag friends. It’s a cool idea and the pictures are high quality (you can actually see EVERYONE in the stands by toggling around.) We didn’t find any snafus in this week’s photo from the FSU vs. Clemson game, but last week was a different story. Two South Carolina fans were in for quite the surprise when they found their faces replaced with an arm and a logo.



 FSU’s Jameis Winston suspension

We should’ve just called Week 4 “Winston Week.” Florida State QB Jameis Winston found himself stuck at the center of controversial coverage yet again. The reigning Heisman Trophy-winner first fired off the week by standing atop a table in the student union and screaming an offensive phrase from an Internet meme. (Miss No.1) Why was this such a big deal? The phrase was particularly disturbing given his rape allegations last year. (Samantha Ponder, ESPN reporter and wife of former FSU QB Christian Ponder, summed this up perfectly during College GameDay on Saturday.) So while Winston was obviously attempting to get some laughs, he got himself half a suspension from the Clemson game—at first. This, of course, sparked outrage. Some believed it was too short, and of course there was added pressure from recent happenings in the NFL, too.

In an email sent out late Friday night,  FSU interim president Garnett Stokes and AD Stan Wilcox announced Winston would be suspended for the entire Clemson game. A name notably absent from the statement? Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. Leaving his name out of the email implied Fisher was not in agreement to the decision. When this stuff happens, unity is crucial. (Miss No.2)

Come game time, Winston was on the sidelines. He actually came out of the locker room in full pads before Fisher quickly sent him back into the locker room to change into street clothes.

It was a terrible PR move by FSU to even put Winston on the sidelines. (Miss No. 3) They had to have known all eyes were going to be on him, judging his every move. And, shocker, that’s what happened. During ABC’s broadcast of the game, the network showed Winston 48 times. As Deadspin pointed out, that means one of every 20 seconds of the broadcast featured Winston for a grand total of eight minutes.

Arizona State vs. Drake

We’re not referring to ASU squaring up with some small school you’ve never heard of. We’re actually referring to the rapper Drake in this one. Drake scheduled a concert in Phoenix on Sept. 25—the same night Arizona State hosts UCLA. The Sun Devils’ social media team wasn’t too fond of that and let their followers know on Twitter.

They were probably trying to be cute while also acknowledging something head on, attempting to dissuade fans from attending the concert over the Thursday night game. To us though, this was a miss. We’re not in Phoenix so we don’t know the landscape, but how many fans were actually aware of the concert? This tweet may have actually done the opposite of its intention by giving Drake added publicity. To our knowledge, the rapper hasn’t responded, but perhaps ASU needs to be added to the “List of Drake feuds” Wikipedia page.

University of California jumps the gun

Speaking of teams from Arizona and California … we’ve got another miss. This one stems from the University of Arizona vs. University of California game in Tucson. Don’t get us wrong—phenomenal game. In case you missed it, the Arizona Wildcats ended up coming back to win the game with a 47-yard Hail Mary pass. But the Bears’ official athletic department store thought Cal already had it in the bag and sent out a victory email moments before the final play. Oops.

While the email may have stung Cal fans soaking in a loss, the company made up for it by honoring the 25 percent discount it offered in the email.


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