5 college football teams marketers can learn from

Jeff Slutz

Teams teach us how to get results on the gridiron and in the inbox.

Tonight kicks off the greatest season there is: college football season. Not only does the week in, week out drama create the most compelling regular season in sports, but college football also teaches us a lot of life lessons about teamwork, determination, and boosting your email conversion rates to astronomical levels. Seriously, check out what we've learned from these 5 teams alone.

Ohio State: Dominate your rivals (respectfully)

Ohio State vs. Michigan is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports (the two states even fought a real-life border war over Toledo in the 1800s). It’s so engrained in the cultures of the two states that their showdown at the end of every November is simply called “The Game.” And lately, Ohio State has been dominating it, winning 14 of the last 16 against That School Up North.



Just like Ohio State seemingly has an answer for every move that Michigan makes, you need to keep an eye on your competitors to stay one step ahead. And it’s not just other brands that you’re competing with: Your emails are also going toe-to-toe with moms, bosses, friends – people your audience actually cares about. So it’s critical that your from name, subject lines, and preheader text are on point (head here for some quick tips). After all, no one’s going to see all the love and care you put into your design and content if you can’t get past their first line of defense. 

Oregon: Design matters

When you think Oregon football, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? You’re right: Donald Duck. But second? Those killer uniforms. Due to their partnership with Oregon alum and Nike CEO Phil Knight, Oregon never wears the same uniform twice, and they’re some of the flashiest threads in the game. Recruits have been known to play for Oregon simply because they get to wear them every Saturday.


Simply put, your email design can make or break your conversion rates. Over 70% of consumers will immediately delete an email that doesn’t render well on a mobile device (BlueHornet). So start with the basics: single column layout, big bold image above the fold, clear headlines to divide sections, tappable CTA buttons, and plenty of white space. Get those down first, and then you can start adding some of that Oregon style.

Alabama: Perfect the process

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban’s secret to success is something he famously calls “The Process.” No one really knows what all it means, but he’s perfected it to the point that Alabama has won four national championships during his tenure. Due to The Process, Alabama tends to look exactly the same from one year to the next, dismantling opponents with ruthless efficiency. It’s almost robotic…


…like automation. I know you hear it (and we say it) all the time, but automation simply works. According to Blueshift, triggered emails have 624% higher conversion rates than batch & blast messages. That’s because they’re landing at the perfect moment, delivering relevant content triggered by the action your subscriber just completed. But that doesn’t mean you can just set it and forget it. Saban is always tinkering with The Process, and you should always be monitoring your automated campaigns to make sure they’re optimized. Here’s a handy guide if you need some help getting started

Clemson: Test your way to success

If you saw last year’s national title game, then you know it seemed like Alabama had it won. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead over Clemson and had a 24-14 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Clemson’s electrifying offense was getting battered, beaten, and stymied at every turn by Alabama’s D. They seemingly tried everything, but in the fourth, they finally broke through, rattling off 21 points on the way to an exciting, improbable victory.


The moral? Clemson kept testing the Alabama defense until they found something that worked. It’s no different when it comes to your marketing. A/B test your content until you find what’s working best with your audience. You can take the same piece of content and test different copy, images, or calls to action to see what’s moving the needle (Pro Tip: Only test one variable at time). It gives your audience a vote in how you market to them, which puts you on the fast track to getting the big time results you’ve always wanted. 

Ole Miss: Break the rules and you'll lose it all

Ole Miss was on the rise the past few years under Head Coach Hugh Freeze with bowl wins, top 10 finishes, and highly ranked recruiting classes. It was arguably the most successful run in school history.  One problem: They cheated really hard to do it. Boosters and coaches gave recruits money, players received extra benefits, and Coach Freeze…well, we won’t go into what he did here. NCAA sanctions are still pending, but it’s safe to say they won’t see the same heights for a long, long time.



I’ll keep it simple. If you’re even considering purchasing lists, bait-and-switch tactics, or outright spamming, don’t. You’ll only hurt yourself in the long run.



See? There’s so much that college football can teach us about successful marketing. Have some ideas that we missed? Leave ‘em in the comments and enjoy the season! 

About the Author

Jeff Slutz

Jeff is a senior content writer at Emma. When he’s not geeking out over email marketing, he enjoys jogging short distances, chowing down on Mom’s cooking, appreciating a beautiful jump shot, and telling anyone who listens how underrated Ohio is. Usually not at the same time.

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