#Undefeated: What Marketers Can Learn from Cuse’s Incredible Win over Pitt

Wow… I don’t even know where to begin. Did you watch last night as Pitt came within 4.4 seconds of stealing my alma matter’s undefeated record? Am I rubbing salt in the wound? Should I stop now?

As a former Cuse grad who truly bleeds orange, last night was literally awe-inspiring. If you missed the game, the undefeated Orange went head-to-head with the incredible Pitt team to hold on to their winning record. It was nothing short of nail-biting and heart-pumping as Pitt looked as though they would finally be the team to steal our record-breaking run. And with 4.4 seconds to go in the game, Cuse down by one, freshman Tyler Ennis nailed a 35-footer to protect our record. Take a look right here if you missed it:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAOIdhEJ1Hg]

So you may be wondering what Tyler Ennis’s game-winning shot and the Cuse’s record-breaking season has to do with marketing. Well, a lot if you think about it. The fact is that Syracuse University has long crafted its marketing message around a few core principles: namely that the university is a place where students come from diverse backgrounds to stretch their limits in the academic, personal, professional and athletic realms. The school “bleeds orange,” as is one of its official taglines, and Syracuse basketball plays a major role in the college’s branding tale.

There is no denying the fact that holding the No. 1 spot in the country for men’s basketball is a tale that touches that high school junior who is hoping to get recruited by the Orange during his senior year. It’s a tale that touches every prospective student who hopes to be able to stand excitedly in the student section of the Carrier Dome, clapping his or her hands in unison until the home team sinks its first bucket. And it’s a tale that attracts the interest of investors, big-shot alumni and local Syracuse companies alike for monetary donations.

In truth, schools are just like companies in that they must have a compelling branding messaging to get out there to secure admissions, financial contributions and strategic partnerships. Universities and colleges need to tell the story as to why prospective students should flock to their campus, why employers should hire the school’s recent grads and why alumni should give back as they move forward in their careers. And every time a school hits a new milestone—whether it is breaking ground on a new academic building, supporting a new study abroad program or reaching a record-breaking basketball run—the school’s story adds another compelling chapter.

Syracuse school officials will undoubtedly use Ennis’s game-winning shot and the team’s awe-inspiring basketball record to expand upon the Cuse tale: having it serve as a focal point of prospective student tours; a major component that the admissions department can weave into new marketing pamphlets; and something the corporate communications department can rely on to get the school some extra interviews and spotlight.

Your company, too, has its own Ennis-type of story to tell; you just have to dig deep. Pinpoint the chapter in your corporate tale that will grab at the heart strings of your key stakeholders and circulate it. Determine the everyday stories about your brand that will pump life into your prospects. And focus on those game-changing, industry-defining moments instead of relying on your standard, go-to-market efforts.

Great players make great plays—it’s up to you to figure out how to make the shot with 4.4 seconds left to go.