December 7th, 2017
I graduated from Indiana University’s School of Journalism in December 2013. However, here I am, electively featuring Purdue University, arguably my alma mater’s arch-rival. While in school, my fellow Hoosiers and I would joke, “Friends don’t let friends go to Lafayette alone.”
That said, what kind of human being would I be if I didn’t momentarily relinquish my Boilermaker disdain to recognize the beauty of their basketball team’s most recent uniform adjustments? No, this is not a matter of fashion. This is a matter of unity.
Across their warmup shirts will now be words that “stand for everything we need in this world right now,” senior forward Vincent Edwards said, such as: Compassion. Empathy. Equality. Forgiveness. Friendship. Humility. Justice. Love. Loyalty. Peace. Respect. Togetherness. Tolerance. Unity.
At risk of sounding cynical, let me say: This is brilliant storytelling that makes for brilliant marketing. Purdue even earned attention from ESPN—the global sports channel featured a story about the team’s reason and inspiration for the shirts.
As a human, I am moved and proud to be neighbors with this team. As a marketer, I am on the edge of my seat. What is Purdue going to do next? How will they make good use of this earned media on their social media channels?
I trolled Purdue’s accounts to discover only one instance in which they directly shared the ESPN article. This post, on the Purdue Men’s Basketball Facebook page, may well have been one of their most popular posts of all time. The content touched the hearts of fans and non-fans (me) alike.
The popularity of the content and the credibility of the news source are not the only reasons to share this story. On their website, Purdue guarantees their commitment “to creating and sustaining a welcoming campus for all . . . to [building] a more inclusive community.” In other words, the message their basketball players are sending perfectly aligns with Purdue’s mission.
This is influencer marketing played out in real life and supported by earned media. University marketers must know that student athletes’ statements about the university influence prospective students, current students, alumni, and donors. In this case, the story is uniquely relevant and positive.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity, Purdue. Promote, promote, promote! Share the story on Twitter, more than once. Post it on Instagram. Share the story with Purdue accounts that have more to do with student life than basketball. After all, this story is “more than basketball”—this story supports a major university initiative.
My hope is that Purdue will spin these uniforms and the story behind them into a much bigger piece of content. I hope they capture plenty of video and student features around the topics written across the players’ chests. In a couple weeks, I hope to see Purdue university shops roll out matching shirts so everyone on campus can jump aboard the movement.
It’s not every day that your basketball team invents a way to support a campus initiative so loudly. Take advantage.
A Lesson to Marketers
Earned media still has a strong position in the world of digital marketing. Whether your brand reaches the tops of lists or the front of newsstands, when credible sources recognize the value of your brand, the message is more powerful than if you say it yourself.
To make the most out of any media you may be so lucky to earn, keep the following tips in your pocket:
- Social media listening is key in catching trending topics surrounding your brand. With a whole host of free and affordable options available to you, in 2017, all brand managers should be keyed into conversations surrounding their brands and industries. In addition to social media listening, set up Google Alerts—you’ll get top stories about whatever topic you choose conveniently in your mailbox.
- When a positive story about your brand trends, engage with those who share the story. Like posts across all channels and share when appropriate. During these powerful, trending moments, don’t miss the opportunity to grow your engagement and your audience.
- Don’t hesitate to create blog content on the topic, especially multimedia content such as video. Then, tailor your content to fit multiple channels and promote, promote, promote!