As the Alabama Crimson Tide won its 15th football national championship, CNN sent me a push notification announcing the results. As I read the notification with glee, hundreds of thousands of others (many of whom had probably never heard of the Tide) read it with me. Whether or not you care about college athletics, it is undeniable that the caliber of a university’s sports teams can affect the quality of media coverage the university receives.
Though it might not have been for the most noble of reasons, the commentary from ESPN about Katherine Webb, girlfriend of Alabama’s star quarterback AJ McCarron, started a social media firestorm. Unlike the strange “Catfish”-like love story of Heisman candidate Manti Te’o of opposing team Notre Dame, AJ’s relationship only got attention because his girlfriend is hot. Hot girls and good football players can’t be bad marketing tactics.
As if UA didn’t get enough attention in the sports world alone, The University of Alabama even got a shout-out in the nationally televised Miss America pageant. I’d be willing to bet that a good portion of the Miss America audience had no idea what that on-stage question was about.
The mention was a PR vehicle to instantly reach an entirely new group of potential publics. If even a small percentage of those viewers took a moment to Google UA, then thousands of people would have been introduced to the mega-brand that is The University of Alabama. And it cost UA nothing.
Like many of the out-of-state high school seniors who come to Tuscaloosa to tour The University of Alabama, I knew next to nothing about UA and the culture that surrounds it before I got here. While using national championships as a public relations tactic brings students to UA, it is everything else about those fall Saturdays that keeps them here. Roll Tide!