Cardale Jones is a Marketing Genius

7 Things We Learned from the Cardale Jones Decision


When Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones stepped up to the podium last Thursday to make an announcement, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The timing certainly seemed right for him to declare he was going into the NFL Draft. He had just led the Buckeyes to a BCS National Championship title after defeating the Oregon Ducks 42 – 20 and the “speedy” Alabama Crimson Tide 42 – 35 in the Sugar Bowl. It seemed everyone was talking about how he defied the odds, starting only three games and coming away with convincing wins. Did I mention he’s the THIRD string quarterback behind one Heisman candidate and another Heisman finalist? Quite impressive. Everyone was talking about Cardale Jones.

On top of all of that, last Thursday was the deadline for underclassmen to file declaration papers with the National Football League. It certainly seemed like all of the puzzle pieces fit, and I was preparing myself for heartbreak.

Then something amazing happened. Jones shocked the world by saying he would return to The Ohio State University to finish his degree. I, along with the rest of the sports world, was shocked. And the conversation about Cardale Jones continued.

Marketers can learn some valuable lessons from the Cardale Jones decision. Whether he intended to or not, Jones ran an amazing marketing campaign using strategies that while not new, are effective when so flawlessly executed. Here are some simple marketing tips to take away from the press conference:

1. Capture the Moment

Do you think Jones’ decision would have drawn as much attention as it did if it took place in March? Probably not. With everyone talking about the recent win and his path to success, Jones took advantage of the situation and made it known that he was making a “life-changing” decision.

TAKEAWAY: As a company, you should always be in front of your customers, but if people are talking about you, take advantage of the additional conversation.

2. Build Suspense

After a rumor started circulating that Jones was going to make an announcement, the sports media jumped all over it. Analysts argued whether it was a good or a bad decision, which round he would be drafted, and the teams that might look to call his name. People with “insiders” to the situation reported the latest rumors and Jones himself tweeted the live conference would be held at 3 p.m.

People were already on edge, anticipating the moment, and then something even better happened. Jones tweeted the “life changing decision” would be announced at 4 p.m. As if there was not enough suspense, Jones created even more. It had the makings of a second The Decision moment.

cardale tweet

TAKEAWAY: Hint at new products or services before you actually reveal them. Just make sure your reveal lives up to the excitement you create.

3. Make it Look Effortless

Jones was nonchalant in the delivery of his decision as if it was an easy one to make. He didn’t draw out the press conference with unimportant details about making his decision. Instead, he removed all complexity and delivered a message that was short and to the point. “My decision was very simple,” he said. “I’m going to return next year for school.”

TAKEAWAY: Today’s society is used to 140-character announcements. Give your customers the information they need, not a bunch of fluff.

4. The Element of Surprise

With all of the anticipation mentioned above, most people thought Jones was packing up his dorm and moving out. He shocked everyone when he said he was returning, and that kept the conversation going after the announcement and beyond.

TAKEAWAY: Keep the public on its toes by doing the unexpected every once in a while. Be adventurous and take risks.

5. Prioritize

Cardale Jones has a clear list of priorities and is not going to let anything get in the way – including the shininess of a multi-million dollar NFL contract. He spoke on the importance of him finishing his degree. “Football has always been a stepping stone to my education,” he said. “When I make the decision to play in the NFL, I want to be done with school… My education is going to take me 10 times further than my athletic ability.”

TAKEAWAY: If you try to do everything at once or move onto the next new thing without closing out an old priority, you’re going to have problems. Consider which marketing channels are the ones that include your target demographic and focus your efforts there.

6. Humanize Your Brand

Jones was humble, stating, “I’m not sure why you made this such a big deal.” OK, maybe that was a shot to the media circus. That’s still up for debate. However, he did give praise to his family, friends, and coaching staff for helping him make the decision.

TAKEAWAY: Do more than just show off your products. Show your customers you take an interest in what is going on outside of your company’s walls and have fun.


7. Tell a Story

Finally, Jones explained the entire process from start to finish in a simple, stripped-down story that connected with everyone watching. Who is going to argue with someone who wants to further his or her education?

TAKEAWAY: People are compelled by extraordinary stories because they evoke memories. Craft your story from beginning to end, staying true to your brand.

In the question and answer section of the press conference, Cardale Jones said he wanted to be a financial planner. We think he might want to consider switching his major to Marketing.

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