Robbie Caldwell has been a busy man since taking over as Vanderbilt’s football coach, but do you think he even knows Judy Orr, Donna Smith, Mike Smeltzer, John Russell, Daniel Dubois, or Jenny Mandeville?
I doubt it. But even if he does, he should stop by each of their offices and thank them for the spectacular marketing campaign this group of talented folks has put together promoting Vandy football. Recently, part of the effort was recognized, as Vanderbilt claimed the top spot in a Bleacher Report feature on the nation’s best 2010 Football Posters.
The story has been a hot read on the site, and has caused some buzz—not only those acknowledging Vanderbilt’s submission, but also those curious why approximately 50 schools declined to participate. The reasons varied, but Vanderbilt’s effort deserves special recognition.
The staff from the Creative Service Department, along with a number of other folks from the sports information office at Vanderbilt, have also sparked some interest in the Nashville area with the promotion that focuses on players who are “Vanderbilt Football.”
The four chosen players—TE Brandon Barden, DB Jamie Graham, RB Warren Norman, and RB Zac Stacy—represent Commodore football. Below you can watch one of their 60-second commercials (and if you listen closely you may recognize that voice as it is Vanderbilt basketball legend Perry Wallace).
“The concept behind our football advertising campaign was to allow our fans to hear and see some of the individual stories on our team that make up Vanderbilt Football. Our student-athletes come from a wide array of backgrounds and many have amazing stories about how they are now competing in the toughest football conference in the country and succeeding in the classroom at one of the most challenging academic institutions in America,” said Steven Walsh, Director of Sales and Marketing at Vanderbilt. “The schedule posters tie into the overall advertising campaign as we’ve highlighted these four individuals without abandoning the team concept that is so important. We’ve tried to tie the theme together in our TV, radio, print and online campaign elements.”
And the four stories are compelling. Here’s what Walsh shared with me on each of them.
Barden: “He is our standout returning tight end who is also pursuing degree in special education at the top ranked education school in the country. He comes from a family of teachers (including his mother who was also his high school principal) and is dedicated to teaching students with special needs.”
Graham: “Jamie is one of our top defensive backs and kick returners. He is a Nashville native who lost his mother at a very early age and with the help of his grandmother he raised his younger brother. He is now extremely active in the community—speaking to schools and community centers throughout the city telling them the importance of education. He is also a special education major and wants to teach in Nashville Metro schools after graduation.”
Norman and Stacy: “Warren and Zac were one of the nation’s top freshman rushing duos last season. They are great competitors on the field (Warren was SEC Freshman of the Year) and also great friends off the field. They are roommates with two differing personalities (Warren is quiet and reserved while Zac is constantly smiling and engaging) who are top-notch running backs and strong students.”
In recent days we’ve heard and read a lot about talented college players who may be suspended this season for interactions with agents, etc. That’s why it’s also important to remind people who love college football that there are still Brandon Barden’s, Jamie Graham’s, Warren Norman’s, and Zac Stacy’s who make the college game great.
“We chose the players after having met with members of the football staff, our media relations group and the players themselves,” Walsh said. “We tried to highlight players who have distinguished themselves both on and off the field and who have a unique story that our fans may not know. We felt that our fans and even the casual college football fans in the Nashville area deserved to hear these stories.”
And those stories are being heard. Vanderbilt may not compete for an SEC title in 2010, but the Commodores are a team anyone would be proud to cheer for this year.
“The over-riding goal was really to continue to build the connection between our fans and our student-athletes. To tell the stories that fans may not see in the media and give them a sense of pride in supporting Vanderbilt,” Walsh said. “The posters and the entire campaign have been very well received by the Vanderbilt community and by the entire Nashville community. We are actually going to be doing something similar with all of our teams for the 2010-11 school year—we feel like we have exciting stories to tell from our student-athletes in all of our sports.”