Championship Marketing: Telling the Story of The Big Game
Our Clemson football team has been on a roll the last couple years. While we’re not banking on this kind of success every year, when opportunity knocks, our marketing team is working to maximize this opportunity to share what it’s like to be a Clemson Tiger!
Our main focus is recruitment and national reputation, since attention for our football team equals attention towards becoming a Clemson Tiger. While I’ll never be able to do justice to everything our Clemson team did around the game, from Alumni Relations & Development to Athletics and more, here are a few marketing highlights.
From the moment the CFP (College Football Playoff) was announced, our marketing team sprung into action to maximize our impact. Our first step was in-person marketing. Before we even made the game, Christine Green, our Director of Admissions Marketing, worked to schedule a high school guidance counselor event for Tampa so we could seize the opportunity if it arose.
These events give us face time with a very influential audience to talk about the opportunities provided at Clemson. We treat them to breakfast, our admissions team gives a presentation and answers their questions. We had 33 counselors from all around Tampa. It was a great time, and we showed them a Google Cardboard virtual campus tour we’re working on.
The digital world
From there we focused on digital. Clinton Colmenares, our Director of Research Communications, rounded up collaborative research stories between us and the team we’re matched up against. We pitch these stories to the media, and they help us ride the wave of conversation by talking about research impact.
Here’s an example of the story we put together to celebrate the work Clemson & Alabama faculty were working on off the field. Content like this offers an opportunity talk about the unique research, it resonates with our audiences and both school’s social teams share it.
We ran Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign around keywords such as “Where is Clemson,” “Clemson University,” “Clemson University Football” and more that resulted in almost 8,000 clicks to Clemson.edu.
We sent an email to our accepted students list encouraging them to learn about the Clemson experience and follow the game on social:
Since we do so much of our university storytelling on social media, we think this is the perfect way to keep them up to date.
In the moment
For real-time content, we plan ahead of time to identify opportunities. In the days leading up to the game, we covered anything & everything we could that was relevant to our Clemson community. As we’ve focused more time on planning for real-time social content, we’ve seen an incredible improvement in our team’s performance. When they know their goal and what shots they need, they do a fantastic job.
It also helps us diversify our social content and maximize its impact. For example, these were the deliverables for the championship celebration parade.
-Photos for Facebook Album
-Vertical Atmosphere Video
-Celebration Moments Video
-UGC Moments GIFs
-Instagram Vertical Shots
We planned to make sure our team members could be intentional, and no one had to “shoot from the hip” while capturing the story. Then we have our creators add items to a shared folder. We also take this approach to other marquee events on campus to enable efficiency and innovation.
For real-time social, we sent a small team to Tampa to celebrate excitement around the game, from sharing content like “Painting Tampa Orange” and a video celebrating our joint volunteering with a bowl rival. The goal is always exciting and engaging content that moves as far as possible to engage our target demographic across platforms.
We also work to sprinkle in more structured university messaging like the occasional brag around being at the top of our game on and off the field and around university rankings. These aren’t our most exciting posts, but they help combine the “head” and the “heart.”
Myself and a student were on the ground, we had a full-time employee editing content in South Carolina and five employee & student photographers capturing the events around the team as they left for the game and celebrated back at Clemson.
All the while, we collaborated with our athletics department to help cover all the angles. We’re lucky to have such a talented group in Clemson Athletics to learn from, and we always love helping them in any way possible!
Adding it all up: the results
During National Championship week, our social team shared 31 original videos, 422 photos, 10 GIFs and 5 full Instagram and Snap stories which resulted in a total of almost 27 million impressions, 887K+ engagements (likes, comments, shares), 41K+ shares, 2.6 million+ video views and almost 11K new fans. All this for the cost of travel for two people and less than $300 in paid social.
In the time around the game, 215 people signed up for a tour, 1,000 people started an application, and over 700 people looked into employment at Clemson. It’s hard to fully understand the admissions impact of this spotlight, but applications are up over last year and things are looking up.
This isn’t everything we did around the National Championship, but it gives a taste of some of the efforts we’re so proud of. We’re continually working to step up our game, and we’re planning to incorporate some of the things we learned into our other projects. The National Championship teed us up, but our team knocked it out of the park.
Tell Us What You Think
How have you harnessed the power of your school’s athletic success in your marketing? Share your success stories in the comments.
About The Author
Robbie Fitzwater is the Director of Content Strategy at Clemson University. He has worked in digital marketing and social media for the last nine years, consulted with global brands like Walmart, The American Red Cross, CBRE, and Fleet Feet Inc., and now gets to work with amazing people to share the Clemson story, and he loves every minute of it!