ELSM Staff Writer: Katie Burger
Chapel Hill, NC – Commitment to their mission statement and the brand of Chattanooga Strong helped to sharpen the direction of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s wrestling program and ultimately, won them first place in the Masterful Mission category of the 2011 Best of Brand Awards. Mocs’ Coaches, Heath Eslinger and Rocco Mansueto, discussed the brand of Chattanooga Strong, as well as described how their experimental marketing efforts through social media boosted visibility of and fan interest in their program.
The Mocs’ mission statement aimed to define what their program strives for and came as the result of contributions from the coaching staff and student-athletes, building upon the existing foundation of the University’s mission and core values. This further developed into the marketing weapon that is Chattanooga Strong, which Mansueto characterized as “accountability.” He explained, “There was an overwhelming desire to be good across all areas: academics, athletics, even socially. And Chattanooga Strong is about being accountable whether you’re in class, in practice, or out on Friday nights. It forces you to make those right decisions.”
Chattanooga Strong has not only helped to raise the team’s GPA steadily over the past three years, during which time eleven wrestlers were named Academic All-Americans, but it has also given more direction to UTC’s recruiting efforts. With a clear vision of the traits that are Chattanooga Strong, Mansueto describes how the coaches are able “to use it as a funnel to find the athletes that fit us academically and athletically.”
UTC’s second weapon in their marketing arsenal was their uninhibited experimentation with content and acceptance of failure. Mansueto described their method as one of “throwing everything at the wall and seeing what would stick. Some things were meaningful, some were meaningless. But we were willing to take risks with our content.” Fortunately for the Mocs, quite a few things stuck. Monday Moc Talks, which are featured on UTC’s Athletics Home page, and info graphics were two ways that the Mocs were able to create a response atmosphere to connect with fans on Facebook and Twitter. Mansueto said, “This year, we are sharpening our direction and making it more pointed. Now everything is meaningful.”
But the mission and experimentation would have been absent without leadership from Head Coach, Heath Eslinger, who saw the benefit of investing the time in marketing through social media. That green light allowed Mansueto and other staff members to give daily attention to UTC’s websites. Eslinger emphasized that “All the credit really goes to Rocco. He is at the heart of our program’s success with social media.”
As for advice, both coaches suggested “taking risks and being okay with failure. Decide what you want your brand to be and let that guide you. Then just continue to evolve.”
The Mocs are competing again this year in the 2012 Best of Brand Awards: Collegiate Division. To follow their season, visit their social media sites:
And to view the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s winning mission statement, visit the Best of Brand page on the Elite Level Sports Marketing website.