Too often marketers get so caught up in real-time success stories that they leave behind any semblance of a long-term strategy and shift gears toward the now apparently “proven” formula. I bring this up on the heels of the incredible accomplishments of the UMBC men’s basketball team (and their social media manager), having become the first #16-seed in the NCAA tournament to defeat a #1-seed. From a sports perspective, it’s unheard of and deserves every bit of attention it is receiving. From a brand marketing perspective, we need to pump the brakes.
As we live through this real-time case study that is UMBC basketball, my question is, now what? Now that the Retrievers are no longer in the tournament, what’s left? What will you as marketers, fans and recruits remember about the program in five years? You will absolutely remember that they beat a #1-seed. You will probably remember the hilarious sass spewed from their Twitter account (especially if you’re in the industry). But what else?
Did any of it contribute to a clearly defined brand position that differentiates the program in your mind? Or in the minds of potential high school athletes graduating in 2023? 2025? 2027? If you were to look at the commentary before, during and after the game from UMBC, could you discern what their brand positioning statement is at all?
While I loved the entertainment value coming out of the program’s social media team in the midst of everything, and as much as I have geeked out on the stats and media headlines since, I am no more invested in the brand. In five years, I highly doubt any of you will be either. The reality is, in 24-hours the media themselves will have already moved on. And when the media moves on, so do the masses.
But imagine for a second that the school came into their opening round game versus Virginia with a tight, well thought out brand positioning plan that clearly defined what makes their program unique and special. A brand story that struck a deeper, emotional chord with just a single segment of the millions of people watching. A brand story that went beyond wins or losses. Imagine if the UMBC Twitter account inserted that story into every snarky tweet it threw out.
Then perhaps in five years we would remember more than a single moment in time. Because that’s what our job as a brand marketer is. Not to win the day, but to win the decade.