Tulane’s other “game plan” kicked in on heels of big football victory

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Tulane football student section at Yulman Stadium
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Ten days ago, as Willie Fritz and the Tulane football coaching staff were putting the finishing touches on a game plan for what has become perhaps the biggest win of Fritz’s tenure Uptown, some other game-planning was also underway on the opposite end of the Wilson Center.

Tulane deputy athletic director Jana Woodson and her external relations team got together for their regularly scheduled Tuesday morning meeting to put the finishing touches on their version of a game plan.

A few minutes past 5 p.m. last Saturday afternoon, when Fritz’s Green Wave finished off a 17-10 road victory over Kansas State, the light turned green for Woodson’s team.

“We start the conversation on being prepared,” Woodson said earlier this week. “We start brainstorming and put it into a plan.”

The “plan” – in short, what to execute when Tulane pulls off a major football victory as it did last Saturday – is an internal three-page document covering a punch list of duties for seven spokes of the external team: marketing, ticket sales, communications, development, broadcasting, corporate sponsorship and social media.

This plan has been there for several years under this leadership team, updated in advance of each opportunity. The adjustments, Woodson said, are to “make it good for this team, this game, this environment.”

Said assistant athletic director for creative services Kadeem Huggins: “If you’re not really prepared for the moment, are you doing your job?”

Shortly after the clock struck all zeroes in Manhattan, the most immediate and visible portion of the rollout happened – a win graphic, created by graphic designer Mmachi Nwoke with an assist from assistant athletic director Andrew Alvarez, featuring a wave collapsing on top of a cat.

“Very tasteful,” said Huggins. “That’s why we put a lifeboat out there for the cat.”

Added Nwoke: “That morning, I was kind of nervous. Everybody’s eye is different; they might not like what you make. Is it a good enough win graphic?”

“You do all that work,” Woodson said, “and it comes to fruition.”

On Twitter and Instagram, Tulane generated nearly 100,000 impressions, 6,000 engagements and 24,000 visits to Tulane’s profile pages – far exceeding anything that the social media accounts have delivered since Huggins arrived in the summer.

The “quote tweets” – among them from Tulane president Michael Fitts – also provided reactions like “best graphic of the year so far.”

“The response we got on social media, the interaction and engagement, was high,” Woodson said. “The biggest part was the immediate things that happened after the game … our graphics, our GIFs. We knew what we were going to push out to gain that momentum. We had planned to get the reaction of our student-athletes after the game and how excited they were.”

With the victory in hand and the school’s first 3-0 start to a football season in 24 years, the next step for the external team was to build on the momentum for Saturday’s home game with longtime rival Southern Miss at Yulman Stadium.

“We’d already been speaking about our advertising and increasing the level,” said Woodson.

Just like the football team isn’t resting on its laurels, neither is the external team.

“We also have to continue to execute … continue with our sales plans, our outreach and content on social,” said Woodson.

“Kansas State was a great opportunity to tell a story,” Huggins said. “Now we have another story to tell. It’s identifying the story and being prepared for the moment.”

Tulane has offered 2-for-1 specials in certain sections of the stadium and worked with partners like PJ’s Coffee for ticket specials as well.

“To see the student-athletes’ pure joy and excitement, that’s the most memorable aspect,” Woodson said. It’s because of them we’re planning and have great content.”

Said Nwoke: “When we’re winning, we can push more, we can create more. Winning helps.”

Indeed it does.

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Lenny Vangilder


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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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