There’s no doubt that the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) thriving success in the most recent football season has made being a college football fan (and an Orlando marketing agency) all the more interesting. The school’s level of higher education branding along with its growing athletic program continues to alter as its self-proclaimed “national championship” title circulates. While there’s nothing that can take away UCF’s accomplishments on the field, the media has varying opinions on how this affects the university from a public relations standpoint.
Orlando’s hometown team considering itself a national champion is something we never thought we would hear anytime soon, seeing as it had a winless season just two years prior. Not only was UCF undefeated in its conference this year, but it was also the only undefeated team in the country. Its perfect season led it to the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl where the football team beat Auburn, finishing the season: 13-0. This 180-degree turn has astonished college football fans all over the country and received national coverage.
While claiming an unawarded championship title is definitely bold, having Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer proclaim UCF as Florida’s national champion is monumental for its brand recognition and public perception. The favorable support and respect for this underdog story has resulted in positive PR for the school, which could increase future ratings and encourage recruitment. As a form of higher education branding, UCF displays its success on every social networking platform to match its competitors’ renowned images. The power of social media and the coverage from major news outlets has produced nationwide awareness for this Florida university, allowing its brand to surpass attention-obstacles it may have had in the past.
UCF remains a media topic of discussion and controversy as it continues to celebrate a title that was granted deservingly to the NCAA College Football National Champions, Alabama Crimson Tide. Fans of Alabama, as well as many other schools, find UCF’s self-proclaimed title to be fallacious and insensitive. Some sports reporters and news outlets have said that UCF took claiming the title too far and suggested remaining modest for the future. Comments as such produce negative PR for UCF that can follow the school into the next season.
Because this is the university’s first undefeated season, commemorating to such an extreme raises the standards for what is to expect from this brand in the future. Its ability remains questionable due to the fact that it is losing coach Scott Frost, who is credited with transforming the team into what it is today. New ratings, rankings and comparisons will constantly revamp the way universities are labeled. UCF’s public perception will continue to change as it works to make a more consistent name for itself. The world of college football is eager to see how the “national champions” of UCF will execute from this point forward.
Appleton is a proud supporter of UCF, regardless of its football record, and has been privileged enough to work with UCF’s internal marketing team and UCF Town & Gown Council, a community relations organization, for over a decade. The extensive history of projects includes website design and development, the creation of databases, direct mail campaigns and digital marketing campaigns, among others.
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