Clemson Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson grew up in a Habitat for Humanity home in Georgia. We learned he wanted to get involved more with Upstate Habitat affiliates, but we wanted to ensure that his involvement with Habitat brought as much benefit to the organization as it did to Watson.
After several meetings between all sides, we came up with a plan where Watson would do three things:
1.Speak at a dinner for Habitat families.
2.Take part in a Habitat home build with the Clemson team.
3. Receive the inaugural Habitat International Next Generation Award, which would be given in the future to young leaders who grew up in Habitat houses.
With a roll out plan in place, we focused heavily on our media relations campaign. We knew getting local coverage in our market would be easy because of the connection to Watson, but in order to secure national coverage, we timed the events to occur during Clemson’s off weeks. As a result, we had every television station, the Associated Press and three newspapers cover the dinner, which was held in summer 2015 before Clemson training camp began. Their stories were then picked-up by media outlets coast-to-coast. However, we knew we wanted to get national exposure for the International award. We explored national reporters who would be able to do the story justice, and again seriously considered the timing of the event to maximize our efforts. We made the awards presentation during Clemson’s by week in the 2015 season, ensuring that reporters looking to cover Clemson stories that week would be interested.
The summer event drew all major local media as well as pick up by national media. Ultimately, ESPN SportsCenter covered the story, which ultimately led to stories in The Washington Post and a Sports Illustrated cover story.