Newsjacking and Fundraising Collide in College Athletics

Chris Syme Owner/Partner, CKSyme Media Group

Posted on March 6th 2013

Newsjacking and Fundraising Collide in College Athletics

We’ve seen some good examples of newsjacking in social media by brands: Mini cars and the horse meat scandalOreo and the Super Bowl blackoutSpecial K and the OscarsSpirit Airlines Fiscal Cliff coupon promo, just to name a few. But now there’s a new kid on the block: Gonzaga University.

Recently, the Gonzaga men’s basketball team rose to the number one ranking in the country, besting the likes of Big Ten powerhouse  Indiana, and the ever-presents  Duke and Kansas. It was a first for the small inland northwest private Jesuit school that has been a perennial contender, being ranked in the top 25 157 weeks in head coach Mark Few’s tenure. This will be the fifteenth consecutive year in the NCAA tournament for the Zags—fourth on the all-time list behind Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State. But this is their first time ranked number one.

Few benchmarked the event by saying, ”It's an honor that people would think this highly of all of us in the program. It's certainly something that's never been accomplished here. It's great for the program, great for the school, great for the city of Spokane and the region and the entire Northwest.”

Keeping those thoughts in mind, what did the Gonzaga marketing crew do next? They parlayed the historic event into an opportunity to raise funds. And this was not a long-awaited university anniversary fundraiser that was years in the making—this was a real-time event that Gonzaga’s marketing minds snatched from the news and turned into an opportunity.  Here’s a screenshot from their Facebook page to announce the promotion:



The same celebration promotion was also announced  on their website and Twitter feed. A click-through on the commemorative picture (a great panorama of the McCarthey Center where the Zags play) produces the details of donation levels available:

  • $5000 for a framed picture signed by all the players and coaching staff
  • $1000 for a framed picture signed by the coaching staff
  • $250 for a framed picture

All are followed with a “to donate click here” link. All are offering a chance to “be a part of Gonzaga history.”

Even though a promotion like this probably wouldn’t be cause for celebration at Indiana or Duke, each with a national championship (or two) under their belts, it is big news at a mid-major school in Spokane, Washington.

This post was preceded the day before by another opportunity to give-and-get: a t-shirt commemorating the event:


Granted a t-shirt is a little less of a hoopla, it still gives the opportunity for anyone to be part of the event, even if you don’t have $5,000 to give to the men’s basketball program.

Congratulations go out to the GU marketing team for newsjacking their historic accomplishment.  Gonzaga, already a recipient of the Flutie Effect, might expect an enrollment increase as well as fuller coffers in the athletic department.

Is your university marketing crew on the lookout for opportunities to newsjack? There are some do’s and do not’s, so take some time to brush up on the good so you don’t become the bad or the ugly.


Chris Syme

Owner/Partner, CKSyme Media Group

Chris Syme's latest book, Practice Safe Social, is a leading resource on how to use social media responsibly. Her agency, CKSyme Media Group specializes in crisis and reputation communications, training, and social media services. See her website at Follow her on Twitter @cksyme


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