Top marketing / PR award for University of Stirling’s Scottish Cup campaign

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Image of Herald Higher Education Awards

The University of Stirling has won a top national award for its communications and marketing campaign celebrating the recent success of its history-making men’s football team.

Stirling won Marketing / Public Relations Campaign of the Year at the prestigious Herald Higher Education Awards in recognition of its high-profile campaign around the football team’s Scottish Cup run, which resulted in a ‘David versus Goliath’ fourth round tie against Dundee United.

The campaign also won Low Budget Campaign at the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) DARE Awards - a category that was hotly contested by some of the nation's biggest PR firms. 

A collaboration between the University’s communications, marketing, social media, sport, and alumni teams and the Students’ Union, the multifaceted campaign – fronted by football legends Sir Alex Ferguson, Lilian Thuram and Craig Brown – received widespread coverage. BBC Sportscene, BBC Reporting Scotland and STV News were among the mainstream media outlets to cover the story, and the campaign helped drive more than 1,000 Stirling supporters to the historic match in Dundee.

James Berry (middle left) and Greg Christison (middle right) are presented with the Marketing and PR Campaign of the Year Award James Berry, club captain (second from left) and Greg Christison, University of Stirling Communications Manager (third from left), are presented with the Marketing / Public Relations Campaign of the Year award by award presenter and judge Stephen Crowe (left) and host Bryan Burnett (right).

The Herald award was presented to Greg Christison, University of Stirling Communications Manager, and James Berry, captain of the football team, at a ceremony at the Radisson Blu in Glasgow. The PRCA award was presented to Jennifer Harrison, Executive Director of Communications, Marketing and Recruitment at the University, Mr Christison and Russell Akers, Senior Creative and Digital Designer, at a ceremony at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh.

The University of Stirling CMR team is presented with the Low Budget Campaign Award.

Russell Akers (second from left), Greg Christison (middle), and Jennifer Harrison were presented with the PRCA DARE Award for Low Budget Campaign.

Jennifer Harrison, Executive Director of Communications, Marketing and Recruitment at the University, said: “I am incredibly proud that our talented team at the University has won these two coveted awards.

“This was a very exciting project to be involved in, as we celebrated the phenomenal success of our student footballers, drove ticket sales with more than 1,000 Stirling fans travelling to Dundee for the historic match, and underlined Stirling’s longstanding designation as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.

“Our campaign ‘Recruiting the 12th man’ was a brilliant example of how successfully colleagues collaborate at Stirling. It involved many teams from across the University and delivered brilliant results with widespread and prominent media coverage, endorsement from sporting icons, and excellent brand visibility on the day of the match. We are delighted to receive this prestigious recognition.”

Watch: The award-winning campaign included 'good luck' messages from football legends Sir Alex Ferguson, Lilian Thuram and Craig Brown.

The campaign provoked excellent reach and engagement on social media, which in turn drove enormous ticket sales. Content included a celebrity endorsement film featuring football icons Sir Alex Ferguson, Lilian Thuram and Craig Brown, as well as Judy Murray, Eve Muirhead and Ross Murdoch. The team also created a cinematic-style promotional film featuring striker Cameron McKinley and another with ‘good luck’ messages from students/staff.

Media engagement was a key focus – with the footballers and coaching staff interviewed on several primetime news slots on BBC and STV, and BBC Sportscene running a seven-minute behind-the-scenes feature on the team. Prominent sports website The Athletic ran a long-read piece after embedding themselves with the team in the week running up to the game, while other coverage spanned national newspapers and BBC radio.

The University of Stirling men’s football team won three trophies in 2022/23 – the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup, Queen’s Park Shield, and the British and Universities Colleges Sport Premier North Division. Over the course of the season, they played 71 matches across eight competitions.

Last year, the team – managed by Chris Geddes – became the first university side to reach the last 32 of the Scottish Cup in more than 50 years when they beat Albion Rovers with a dramatic injury time winner. They were rewarded with a trip to Tannadice to take on Dundee United in January – and held their own against their Premiership opponents. Despite the students’ impressive performance, they eventually lost the match 3-0 – but created memories that will live long in the memory.