While I was mad about March Madness early last month, I now find myself mad because of it. Not only did my bracket die during the Sweet Sixteen, but also my team, The Ohio State Buckeyes, lost an upsetting Final Four game over the weekend, thereby ending the season in my eyes. Yet, the same could not be said for everyone. Yesterday, our very own Erin Donahue—a graduate of the University of Kentucky—represented her team in a Wildcats shirt, while the few DGC-ers lucky enough to still be in the running for the office pool fervently discussed what it would take for them to win.
In the end, Kentucky and Dejon Mullings (the DGC office pool victor) weren’t the only winners last night. Every team that made it into the tournament won something: recognition. The nation knows about schools such as Duke, UNC, Ohio State and other big names in college basketball, but what’s great about March Madness is that it gives smaller colleges the opportunity to build buzz. Especially during a time when prospective freshmen are trying to figure out where they want to go to school.
It certainly worked for my brother four years ago. Faced with several university options, he didn’t know Davidson College was the right school for him until he witnessed the way in which it built camaraderie (bussing students to games, distributing t-shirts, hosting viewing events, etc.) around March Madness as its team made it all the way to the Elite Eight. Since then, Davidson has become much more to him than just a basketball school. He’s now a fan of the entire college offering.
March Madness is not just a measurement of basketball prowess, but also a highly valuable marketing tool. For Kentucky, it means a championship ring. For all 64 schools that were in the running, it might also be the key ingredient in attracting a freshman class that’s just as mad about the school as it is about its basketball team.
February saw the rise of Jeremy Lin and the ‘Linsanity’ phenomenon that took over the world for two weeks. Everyone was looking for a way to connect to Lin. Amongst all of the stories to come from the sensation, ESPN was condemned for running the headline “Chink in the Armor” on their site, as well as saying it on-air. The headline was in reaction to the Knicks first loss since Lin had became an overnight sensation for the team.
As a result, ESPN suspended anchor Max Bretos and fired Anthony Federico, who was responsible for posting the headline. ESPN is known for swiftly severing all ties with any controversial internal actions, avoiding any potential PR backlash in the process. Bretos and Federico both offered apologies via their own channels, but their careers ultimately have been changed.
Lin brushed off the comments, saying “have to learn to forgive. And I don’t even think that was intentional, or hopefully not.”
Fast forward to March 27. Jeremy’s family had reached out to Federico, and after coordinating with Jeremy’s travel schedule, Jeremy and Federico had lunch together.
Said Federico: “The fact that he took the time to meet with me in his insanely busy schedule . . . He’s just a wonderful, humble person. He didn’t have to do that, especially after everything had kind of died down for the most part.”
Jeremy Lin stands as more than just a basketball player. He is an international icon. By following up and embracing Federico for his mistake, he further enhanced his positive image. Lin gave him a chance to right his wrong face-to-face, an opportunity many do not get in this digital world.
Sure, it reads like a feel-good PR story. Yet it stays consistent with Lin’s genuine humility throughout the Linsanity craze. While everyone is going “Linsane,” Jeremy stayed grounded. His PR value is still through the roof, even if his stock on the court has cooled off.
If you were Jeremy Lin’s PR team, would you have encouraged a meet with Federico? In our mind, this is a for sure PR win for Lin and his team. Stay humble and keep Linchanting the crowd!