Marketing and Public Relations Lessons Learned from The Ohio State University Football Coach
If you’ve been in a hole the last decade, you may not be familiar with Urban Meyer, head coach of the Ohio State University football team. For everyone else, Urban Meyer’s name has become synonymous with college football, BCS National Championships and success. When you hear Meyer’s name you may not immediately think marketing strategy or public relations. If not, you’re overlooking two of the most powerful weapons—players, coaches or otherwise—Urban uses to win, win and win.
Urban Meyer is constantly making news; he is disruptive and once he has his aim set on something he doesn’t let go. It just so happens these traits also represent some of the most important facets of marketing and PR. Let me use some examples from Urban Meyer’s coaching career to show how I learned the characteristics of a great public relations and marketing strategywhile watching Urban Meyer achieve one of the most successful college football careers in NCAA history.
Urban Meyer is constantly making news; he is disruptive and once he has his aim set on something he doesn’t let go. It just so happens these traits also represent some of the most important facets of marketing and PR.
On developing and executing a strategy
If you listen to Urban Meyer talk at any press conference you will hear him discuss his game plan. A game plan is the same thing as a marketing plan. It is the blueprint for achieving your end goal. It is the single most important part of marketing because, as the adage goes, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”
While making a good marketing plan is not easy, it is the execution that is the most difficult of all. This is where most of us struggle. Not Urban. Urban Meyer has proven that a good game plan, and in turn a good marketing plan, is one that is obtainable (albeit often times impossible seeming) and adaptable so that no matter what comes up the goal is never at risk. We’ve seen how a game plan built on these principles has allowed OSU to reach the playoff national championship game despite losing both their first- and second-string quarterbacks. We would be smart to build these strategies into our own marketing plans to ensure we overcome the challenges we face when our plan is tested.
On making your voice heard
With all the machismo and big personalities in the androcentric world of college football, you can imagine how hard it is to make your voice heard. This is a challenge we marketers are all trying to solve—no matter what industry we’re in. So how can one person be heard over all the other noise? Urban Meyer has used a number of tactics over the years, but there are two things that stand out: One—he is disruptive. Two—he backs it up with even better performance.
In marketing I think of these two things in relation to an ad (disruption) and landing pages or content marketing (performance). In 2003, when the University of Utah football team went 10-2, Urban was on every news and sports channel harping about how he had one of the best teams in the nation but they were excluded from a BCS bowl game. The following year, the Utes improved their record to 12-0 and were rewarded with an invitation to the Fiesta Bowl; becoming the first non-major conference team to break into the BCS. In 2013, when OSU went undefeated (12-0) Urban let everyone know that the team not been on restriction and they should have been in the championship. In 2014, with an early loss, OSU was on the bubble to make the first college playoff. Urban never stopped saying his team deserved to be in the playoff. He further silenced the critics when his team put up a 59-0 win over the Wisconsin Badgers. The reward, as we all know, was the final invitation to the 2014 college football playoff. As marketers we can achieve the same success by aligning an ad’s call to action (CTA) with the content it links to. This will deliver an ideal user experience and we will be rewarded with higher conversion rates.
On using a multi-channel attack
Teams coached by Urban Meyer are notorious for their explosiveness and propensity to score no matter what side of the ball they are on. Meyer’s teams have been among the most successful in offense, defense and special teams. There is no surprise to hear that on the field, Urban Meyer uses all the (marketing) channels available to him. It may be lesser know how well Urban uses his off-field marketing channels. He is often praised by the schools he coaches at for his ability to get the staff and student body involved. He engages directly with the local community, constantly receiving coverage from the national news and sports agencies. He touches all aspects of traditional and digital media. Not coincidentally, Urban Meyer has one of the largest followings in college football and his teams are always included in important league conversations often even before the season starts. Knowing what channels are available and delivering a consistent message across them all are core practices in any marketing strategy.
On adapting to your audience
There are few instances where you can show the efficacy of adapting to your audience as transparently as in college football. Each week, teams adjust their game plan to give them the best chance of winning against each new team. Urban Meyer may be one of the best examples of this strategy. Urban and his teams are constantly studying film and creating custom game plans. Urban accounts not just for the other team’s players (prospects in our marketing world), but he also creates new plays and formations (audience-specific content). With two undefeated seasons under his belt and an overall record of 141-26, it’s pretty obvious this strategy works. Our marketing teams should be looking at audience profiles to create custom content for each segment of our audience.
Urban accounts not just for the other team’s players (prospects in our marketing world), but he also creates new plays and formations (audience-specific content).
On focusing attention to your goal
Urban Meyers has mono-vision. His attention and the attention of his team are always on winning the next game and ultimately the national championship. Marketers should have a similar focus. We need to focus on the goals of each campaign and ultimately the goals of the overall marketing plan. When attention is diverted away, it needs to be realigned. When Urban has an off-field issue, of which he has many, he is quick to turn the focus back to team goals. During press conferences Urban has ignored, and even berated, journalists for asking questions that aren’t about the next game. His intensity and unwavering attention to specific objectives has given him a reputation for being too intense. He even addressed health issues related to this. That tells me singular focus in football (and in life) is probably good in moderation. However, in marketing, where focus means more leads and more revenue, we need not worry about moderation. Our creative ads and marketing message should drive our audience towards the specific goal we want them to achieve. Reviewing our strategy and content will make sure we don’t mistakenly allow prospects to lose focus and escape the conversion funnel.
Singular focus in football (and in life) is probably good in moderation. In marketing, where focus means more leads and more revenue, we need not worry about moderation.
I didn’t necessarily see it before, but now every time I watch an Urban Meyer interview or press conference I see core marketing strategies emerge. In fact, I once met Urban Meyer when I was a freshman at the University of Utah. He was threatening to beat up a room of wide-eyed college students if they didn’t attend every home game that year. At the time I thought this was an unorthodox marketing tactic. Now as I’ve watched Urban’s star rise, I realize it was just one of the many marketing tools Urban was employing in his game—or better yet, his college football marketing strategy.
We at Fluid will be watching this coming Monday, January 12 as Coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State University take on the Oregon Ducks in the first ever NCAA playoff national championship game. We expect you will be too! Send us your predictions before the game and let us know what marketing tactics you’ve observed in college football (or any industry) that can be applied to a great marketing strategy.
- A good marketing strategy is one that is obtainable and adaptable so that no matter what comes up the goal is never at risk
- As marketers we can achieve success by aligning an ad’s call to action (CTA) with the content it links to.
- Marketing teams should be looking at audience profiles to create custom marketing content for each segment of our audience.
- Reviewing our strategy and content will make sure we don’t mistakenly allow prospects to lose focus and escape the conversion funnel.