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Champions on the Field and in PR Strategies

Published on October 25, 2023, at 3:38 p.m.
by Ali Burleson.

For years, we’ve seen strategic public relations initiatives centered around the sports industry. With over $100 billion invested in sports event marketing alone, the North American sports market hyperfixates on many athletic programs. Through PR efforts, athletes and sports organizations are increasingly propelled to fame.

When it comes to effective public relations practices, The University of Alabama’s athletic department possesses expertise. The Tide entices fans from all over the country, but the real question is, how does the athletic department maintain its dominance in all aspects? Through media relations, press conferences and the utilization of prominent figures, you’re sure to catch updates on UA’s football program beyond just watching a game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Tide by a tablet

With engaged fans tuning in all over the country, sports streaming platforms have been a game changer for when you can’t

Photo via The University of Alabama Football’s Instagram (@alabamafbl)

make it to the stadium. According to reports, over 77% of all sports enthusiasts access sports content through electronic devices. The university’s football program seems to be aware of these significant numbers. Its communication staff captivates fans throughout the week by showcasing key players’ achievements and sharing exciting hype videos through various social media outlets. The official Instagram for Alabama Football has over 1 million followers and continuously fluctuates upward.

Additionally, the football program keeps fans up to date with its website by providing game highlights, ticket sales, merchandise and more. Social media integration is a key player for all PR practitioners, and Alabama football’s website incorporates videos for Bama football fanatics to easily share on their personal social media accounts, continuously reaching audiences far and wide.

More than just the sideline

According to Goldman McCormick, a PR firm out of New York, “To be successful, the topic or event [in a press conference] should be newsworthy or of significant interest to the general public so that media outlets are more likely to send reporters to cover it.”

Press conferences are an important aspect of engaging fans and stakeholders. They also allow for the narrative to be managed and shaped while ensuring maximum coverage.

Photo via The University of Alabama Football’s Instagram (@alabamafbl)

Given the University of Alabama football program’s regular media attention, it’s important to try to control the narrative. After every football game, the team’s head coach Nick Saban holds a press conference to elaborate on game-changing plays and the challenges encountered throughout the game. Teammates often engage in press conferences to provide additional insights on what was taking place on the field and in the huddle, which keeps fans and stakeholders engaged. Press conferences ensure extensive coverage, and they have proven to be an effective media practice across many different organizations.

Campaign season

Frequently, sports personalities will appear in commercials or endorse brands, even if the products aren’t directly related to their field of expertise. However, it’s these campaigns that increase the program’s visibility by capturing the attention of sports fans. It also grants the ability for sports figures to support and advocate for the things they believe in.

Saban has appeared in numerous Aflac commercials, emphasizing the gap between medical expenses and health insurance. “For the last three years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Aflac and advocate for those facing medical debt,” Saban said in a release. “In football, we run into unexpected situations in games each week, but only through preparation are we able to overcome the challenges. It’s the same thing in life, which is why I work with Aflac to help fans better prepare for unexpected health expenses they may encounter.”

NIL partnerships are a more recent tool that athletes can capitalize on by making money and gaining exposure to the program the athlete is involved in. Through an endorsement, former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young appeared in several Nissan commercials while wearing an Alabama jersey and interacting with other well-known former college athletes.

Photo via USA TODAY Sport’s Instagram (@usatodaysports)

These are just a few examples of how sports stars have represented the Alabama football program. Such strategic partnerships not only boost the visibility of the program but also demonstrate effective PR practices, as they enhance the image and reputation while extending to a wider audience.

We know good PR practices when we see them, and the University of Alabama football department does an excellent job maintaining its reputation and leveraging attention from its publics. We can only expect the dynasty to continue its dominance. And, it’s not that hard with 18 national championships.

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