What the TCU Horned Frogs Can Teach Us About Content MarketingPhoto credit: ESPN

With his team losing 31–0 at halftime, Coach Gary Patterson knew just what he needed to do.

He changed his shirt.

After swapping his somber black, long-sleeved turtleneck for a lightweight TCU-purple tee, he addressed the troops.

Then they took the field and made football history.

By the end of regulation, the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs had matched the Oregon Ducks’ 31 points and taken the 2016 Alamo Bowl into overtime. The final score, after three overtime periods? 47–41. And the team under the confetti shower was the Horned Frogs, having tied for the biggest comeback win in college bowl history.

“I will never wear black again,” Patterson later joked with ESPN.

And while the end result may seem like a miracle, the effort behind it was 100 percent human — an effort from which we as content marketers have much to learn as we begin a new year.

Star power doesn’t make you … and lack of it doesn’t break you.

TCU’s woes began before the team even arrived at the stadium, with superstar quarterback Trevone Boykin suspended after a bar fight and Josh Doctson — the best wide receiver in school history — out with an injury. Taking over at QB was Bram Kohlhausen, a senior transfer who’d never started a game in his career … and who after halftime racked up 255 yards and four touchdowns, including the game winner.

What we can learn: While it’s great to have geniuses, prodigies, and miracle-workers on your team, it’s equally important to work with the talent you have. So if your team is lacking superstar talent — or if your superstar writer just quit — take a deep breath and relax. With trust, time and hard work, you can still win the day.

It’s not over.

TCU could have skulked away to the locker room at halftime and batted around strategies for keeping their dignity as they faced the inevitable. But they didn’t. They talked about how to win.

What we can learn: As content marketers, all of us will face challenges that some might be tempted to read as “game over.” A reorg slashes our team in half. A bold new competitor steals our thunder. An initiative that gobbled up half our budget goes bust. But the best part of our job is that it’s never over. Any given day, any given hour, we can regroup and revamp our strategies to go for the win.

Work through fatigue.

As the game barreled into overtime, it was clear that both teams were exhausted. Every sideline shot showed at least one player being worked over by trainers to knead out cramping muscles. But weary bodies were no match for the sheer will that propelled the Frogs (and the Ducks) to give it their all in an epic overtime slugfest that took three rounds to yield a winner.

What we can learn: In many companies, a dedicated content marketing team is a luxury about which they can only dream. In the meantime, the same squad does double and triple duty for all tasks that keep the brand seen — from coordinating product launches to manning trade show booths. All too often, creating content gets shoved to the bottom of our to-do list, to be addressed after we’ve emptied ourselves doing everything else. It’s at those moments of total exhaustion that we have to dig deep and get the job done … because failure is not an option.

“Decide to play.”

There were no cameras rolling or microphones recording during Coach Patterson’s locker-room halftime speech, but injured receiver Josh Doctson shared some of his recollections with ESPN: “TCU is a proud program, Patterson preached, and the first half wasn’t what this program is about. So decide to play. If you do, you’ve got a chance.”

What we can learn: We’ll never be successful content marketers if we go at it halfheartedly, no matter what kind of challenges we’re facing. We need to decide to play.