Wisconsin has begun a Heisman campaign on behalf of senior running back Montee Ball, the school announced on Thursday.
The “This Fall Belongs to Ball” campaign includes a web site (complete with a clock counting down the 18 touchdowns Ball needs to become the all-time NCAA leader), a twitter feed (@moneyball), a Facebook page and this excellent video:
The robust campaign is a bit of a departure for Wisconsin, which is normally reticent in touting its players, a mentality best espoused by head coach Brett Bielema last season when talking about Russell Wilson‘s Heisman hopes:
Russell Wilson’s chances on winning the Heisman I think will be determined on how he plays. In today’s world there really aren’t campaigns, you don’t have to to send out a million emails or write a book or put up a poster board. All you gotta do is play good football. I know Russell’s concentrating on that and his teammates will help him do that as well.
Wilson did, in fact, play very well in 2011. He set the NCAA record for passing efficiency in a season, an achievement that netted him exactly four first-place Heisman votes and a ninth-place overall finish.
Meanwhile, Ball rushed for 1,923 yards and scored an NCAA-record-tying 39 touchowns, a remarkable feat that nonetheless resulted in just 22 first-place votes and a distant fourth-place finish, 630 points behind third-place Trent Richardson of Alabama.
In other words, Bielema was wrong about how Heismans are won. When several players are worthy of Heisman consideration, voters sometimes need help in figuring out how best to separate them. That’s what sports information directors are for, though far too many seem to think such efforts are beneath them.
But there’s a reason Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars on public relations and marketing campaigns–because they work. The laws of PR and marketing aren’t suddenly suspended when they are applied to football.
This year it’s clear Wisconsin isn’t going to be caught napping in those departments. Ball is the top running back candidate for the Heisman and is poised to become the NCAA’s all-time touchdown leader. As the video makes clear, he’s the heir to an illustrious running back tradition at Wisconsin and potentially the best ever to wear a Badger uniform.
If Ball does his part, he has a chance to win the Heisman…especially now that Wisconsin is doing its part on his behalf.