(Second) Boldest. Marketing Move. Ever.

What else can the marketing team do right? Seriously, it is the 1% rule going on at Northwestern right now. Most programs have fans bickering about 99% of what the school isn’t doing right outside of the game play. Yet, Jim Phillips’ team continues to hit the mark, this time in an unprecedented fashion.  We’ve had legitimate Heisman candidates before – namely Darnell Autry and Damien Anderson, but neither got a sniff of this type of administrative support.  About an hour ago Teddy Greenstein posted this article which will be a feature piece in the Sunday print edition of the Chicago Tribune. The topic? “Persa Strong” is the name of the 2011 Heisman campaign that Northwestern will be unleashing via billboards and a highly targeted media relations effort.

What’s the big deal, you say? Well, for starters, we’re plunking down dough for billboards in suburban Hartford, CT near Bristol, the home of course of ESPN.  There are likely triple digit Northwestern employees working for the world wide leader. I can name at least 30 that I personally know.  However the brilliance is they will get much more buzz about the news story of doing this guerilla marketing campaign. Speaking of guerillas, or should we say gorillas, NU will be sending out 7 pound (get it, Persa wears #7) purple dumbbells to select media members as part of the campaign to grab the attention of Heisman media influencers as they take the “Persa Strong” theme literally.   Additionally, Northwestern will be putting up the billboard at one of the highest trafficked spots in Chicago on the Kennedy Expressway next week, according to Greenstein.  

I absolutely love this.  It’s bold, it’s buzz-worthy and it’s a hell of a lot more targeted and cost effective than the Joey Harrington Times Square approach from several years back.  Let’s collectively track how many ESPNers reference the sign in the coming month. Set your social media search tools now and send it my way.  At this very moment you get the sense that Fitz is talking to Persa and giving it the “be straight up with me Danny, look me in the eye. You’re really ready to go, right?”.  The reason this is bold is that there is 0% guarantee that he will indeed be physically strong in the Achilles to be the same guy who set the ALLTIME Big Ten record for pass completion percentage (73.5%) last season.  What if he gets injured vs BC and can’t play? Will said media turn the effort around in to some type of pun? Well, who cares quite frankly.  The fact that NU is taking these types of risks becomes part of the story about the commitment from NU to the program.  The facilities, the marketing, the support, you know, everythinig but paying people to fill the remaining 20% of the seats we need to to ensure sellouts. 

I say this is the second boldest marketing move I’ve seen NU make as the first is something I won’t be talked out of by anyone. Gary Barnett gets his due here as his slogan of “Expect Victory” was put there in plain sight on billboards in each endzone in 1993 as his way of making accountability visible.  You have to be from the Lake The Posts era to understand how drastic this was and the endless chuckling and ribbing it got from non-NU fans and even fringe NU fans.  In retrospect it seemed like just another motivational move to change the culture, and it was, but the boldness of that statement based on the previous generation of teams far outweighs this.  Bravo, Northwestern. Keep it coming! 


 The website is up and running. Check out PersaStrong.com for the NU positioning of Dan Persa’s 2011 Heisman campaign. The Chicago Sun-Times came out with this “get you pumped for Persa to take the field feature on the Persa Strong campaign as well.  Man, this is getting exciting, isn’t it? I admit I have butterflies ALREADY for BC. 

Marketing Update

I’ve got the 2011 schedule card in my hand and again, a HR by NU.  It folds out in to a really cool, very one-stop shop kind of information tool that goes WAY beyond just how to buy tickets and the schedule. This is part of a post this week, but I felt it was right to give a nod here.


Congratulations to Zeke Markshausen who was signed as a free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs today. Zeke, a fan favorite former WR is on the all-Rudy team of NU standouts and nearly set the alltime single season reception mark with 91 in his senior campaign. Zeke continues the most frenzied signing of Northwestern players by NFL teams in one week.

Ticket City (but not the bowl)

Tickets for the inaugural Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy went on sale this morning. There are a lot of requests for tickets, but I’m going regardless of whether or not the ‘Cats make it, are you? Should be incredible to see.  By the way, our division won the coin toss so Northwestern will be wearing the purple jerseys on December 3.   Of course, general tickets sold out in two hours, but there are 30,000 left – 15,000 for each school, so yet another reason to get your season tickets, but wait until Monday, as we have a big announcement on this.

  • Raymond Lembke

    Good for NU for pushing Persa.

    I’ll be in Indy for the Big Ten Championship game, but I’ll buy my tickets as part of the Northwestern allotment. I’m glad we get to wear the purple jerseys.

  • Rossington

    Fabulous, Go Cats!

  • Here are pictures of the billboard and weights courtesy of the Sun-Times:


    They also put up a new landing page for NUSports.com at PersaStrong.com.

  • David was in Dallas; now he’s in Atlanta

    LTP, when you Tweeted about being nervous about Dan’s health, I admonished you with a stern, “Bite your tongue.” Reading about this campaign has me nervous enough that I need someone to admonish me back! The campaign is brilliant, yes, and needs to start now for Dan to be truly in the conversation from the get-go. My fingers are crossed, though, that this gamble is worth it.

    I am, however, buying into 100 percent, aided by the quite-likely-true scenario you presented above: “At this very moment you get the sense that Fitz is talking to Persa and giving it the ‘be straight up with me Danny, look me in the eye. You’re really ready to go, right?'” You have to believe that they wouldn’t do this without full confidence that he is ready. (Again, fingers crossed.)

    With that ramble done, my first Tweet of the day: “I worked out early this morning so I can be #PersaStrong. @PersaStrong”

    GO CATS and GO DAN!

  • Mark

    Another reason to be encouraged about this year’s running game: In 2010 Trumpy gained 550 and lost 20, Smith gained 197 and lost 1. So approximately 3.6% and .5%. Fields gained 207 and lost 29. Approximately 14%. In 2009 a grab bag of running backs gained/lost/%: Fields 324/22/6%, Concannon 258/17/6%, Simmons 240/7/2+%. In 2008: Sutton 922/32/3.5%. So our observations of Fields last year – he’d always try to run laterally to get outside but didn’t have the top end speed to turn the corner against SEC/Big 10 linebackers and defensive backs. Getting yardage on every carry is important. We’re closer to Tyrell’s success now with our main running back – Trumpy learned how to use his blockers during the season and I could tell a difference from game to game once he became the starter. Sutton lost little yardage because he was quick and had subtle little moves that avoided tacklers being able to square up on him so he would almost always get 1 – 3 yards after the first hit. I’m not sure that Trumpy has that feature but has, I think, greater top end speed.

  • Drew

    I’m not sure if anyone else noticed this or not but I thought it was pretty interesting that the billboard in Chicago doesn’t actually say Northwestern on it. This may be a non-issue but it assumes that people will see Purple+N+Wildcat and think Northwestern but I’m not sure that the super general public will make this leap (Though I really have no idea). I’d be interested to see if this was a conscious decision to cause people to ask about Persa/visit Persastrong.com or simply to save room on the billboard. Just thought that was interesting.

    Also did anyone else get irrationally giddy about a “Chicago’s Big Ten Champion” Billboard in the near future, because I know I did.

  • Shawn

    When are they going to sell Persastrong t-shirts?

  • Wildcat86


    I don’t know, but I want one as well!