In this modern era of college football, a program’s brand and online presence is as significant a piece of the puzzle as almost anything else. At TCU, it has always felt like a missed opportunity.
While other schools were pumping out content that connected fans to the players and coaches of their favorite teams, TCU football remained relatively silent and unengaged. In fact, the football’s marketing efforts seemed lackluster even when compared to the basketball and baseball teams.
A lot of that had to do with Gary Patterson. Notoriously superstitious, Patterson’s oft-uttered phrase, “If I’m telling you, I’m telling [insert opponent here],” was more than just a mantra. It impacted how information flowed within and outside of TCU’s program.
Those times seem to be behind us now. In the last 96 hours TCU Football has been more active on social media than I ever remember seeing beforehand, and it’s an intentional effort on the part of the new regime, whose efforts are supported by AD Jeremiah Donati.
“I think you can see just from last night just on a few social media teasers what the potential is.” Donati said after TCU’s introductory press conference with Sonny Dykes.
TCU introduced Dykes on Monday night when he landed in a helicopter at midfield in Amon G. Carter Stadium - a move that was plastered all over social media.
Just moments after, TCU Football’s Twitter bio changed to “DFW’s Big 12 College Football Team.”
While these may not seem like big moves, it’s a signal that TCU is going to be more outgoing and creative in the Sonny Dykes era. According to Donati, a lot of that creativity comes from Sonny and his staff.
“One thing that’s really impressive about Sonny’s staff is that they’re very creative. They’ve got a lot of original thoughts themselves, they’re not waiting for the marketing department to come running down the hall to say ‘do this do that.’ Talking to Sonny, the ‘Dallas’ branding, that was his idea. That wasn’t a marketing department saying ‘hey we need to be Dallas’ team,’ that was coming from him.”
SMU’s marketing has been top notch since Dykes arrive in Dallas, and it turns out, Dykes himself was the mastermind behind branding SMU as Dallas’ team. How did he come up with the idea?
“I’m not going to lie, I kind of stole that idea from what was already here.” Dykes said with a chuckle Tuesday, “That was one of the things, the year I was here, I was so impressed with, the city of Fort Worth, I think it’s been a process to get here but this city loves TCU football.”
“There’s an incredible synergy between Fort Worth and this university,” Dykes continued. “It was abundantly obvious to me, they wear purple on Fridays, all the things that I saw, the businesses that had signs supporting TCU in them, getting my coffee in the morning, people were wearing purple and talking about the game, I just thought what an incredible support system that is here and I think that’s what universities are supposed to do. They’re supposed to serve their communities. I always had that feeling that TCU got that, that it served the Fort Worth community and the Fort Worth community responded to that and supported TCU.”
Don’t expect any “Fort Worth” uniforms any time soon, but TCU fans should look forward to a time where TCU football is far more public facing than they have been at any point in the last 20 years.
Of course, winning helps, as we all know.
“I’m really looking forward to the collaboration there,” Donati said, “I’ve felt that we’ve underperformed. I felt that our brand could be bigger, and it will be bigger. A lot of that comes with football success. When things are going really well it’s easier. When they’re not, it’s more difficult.”
“But we’ve got some new thinking and a new, fresh, objective way to look at it. Look, we’re 90,000 living alum. We need every t-shirt fan we can get. We need every member of Fort Worth - there’s 1.3 million people, 12th biggest city in the country, we need everybody to be on board.”
Donati touches on a great point here. TCU’s size is, in some ways, an obstacle. When your living alumni barely fills Jerryworld, you have to get creative with how you bring other people into the fold.
Winning helps, creative marketing works, and TCU is perfectly positioned to be successful in both areas. Donati agrees.
“If we can get that done, then we’ll be as successful as we want to be.”