Texas A&M Athletics Director Eric Hyman today announced the hiring of Jason Cook as Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs. Cook will lead the athletics department’s marketing, communications, event management and broadcast initiatives, while also working with the Letterman’s Association and sports museum.
Cook, who played a key role with President R. Bowen Loftin in Texas A&M’s move to the Southeastern Conference, has served as the university’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications since 2008. He was recently named the International Brand Master of the Year for 2012 by the Educational Marketing Group for his efforts in increasing Texas A&M’s national visibility through the SEC transition and an integrated “one brand” approach that spans athletics and academics.
“We are ecstatic that Jason Cook will be joining the Texas A&M Athletics team. After having an opportunity to work with him over the past year, I have been impressed with his strategic counsel and his ability to bring together diverse teams working toward a common goal,” said Hyman. “Jason is well-known and respected throughout the SEC, and with his extensive relationships across the country and within the Aggie Network, he will have an immediate impact for us in athletics.”
Cook launched an aggressive national marketing campaign in advance of Texas A&M’s official entry into the SEC, which included broadcast, extensive social media, outdoor and various public relations activities. His strategic positioning of the Texas A&M and SEC as co-brands – even declaring the state of Texas as “SEC Country” – led to unparalleled visibility for the university, along with a 23 percent annual increase in licensing revenues.
He also was instrumental working with athletics in the strategic development of quarterback Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy campaign, which led to the first freshman ever winning the prestigious award. The unconventional Heisman approach began with a public relations-based influencer initiative, and culminated with a national marketing blitz – complete with a seven-story billboard in New York’s Times Square – that received much acclaim.
Texas A&M’s “one brand” philosophy, developed under Cook’s leadership, includes a consistent graphic identity for the university across athletics and all organizational units, as well as using athletics to introduce academic initiatives. The university is widely recognized as a national leader in social media: Most influential college online (Klout), most engaging university on Facebook (Varsity Outreach), top 10 Twitter accounts (Education Dive) and “schools that are smart at social media” (PC Magazine).
“While working on the SEC transition over the past two-plus years, I rediscovered my passion, which is rooted in intercollegiate athletics. I started my career in athletic media relations, met my wife at the 1994 SEC Football Championship Game, and have experienced the tremendous impact athletics can have in increasing exposure for the entire university,” Cook said. “I look forward to working with Eric Hyman, the coaches and athletics staff in building one of the top athletic departments in the country as well as growing and engaging our fan base.
“This is also an exciting time to transition back into athletics with the explosion of social media, the renovation and expansion of Kyle Field, and future expanded broadcast opportunities through the SEC,” Cook added.
Cook has served in various capacities within The Texas A&M University System since 2003, including a joint appointment as Chief Communications Officer in addition to his position as a vice president for Texas A&M. Prior to his service in College Station, Cook was Assistant Vice President of Media and Communications for Birmingham, Ala.,-based HealthSouth Corporation.
Cook currently serves on the public affairs committee for the Association of American Universities, representing the top 62 institutions in North America; the executive committee for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ Council on Strategic Communications and Advancement; and the executive committee for the SEC Communicators Association. He is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America.
“The impact Jason Cook has had in elevating the Texas A&M brand and our university-wide marketing and communications initiatives is immeasurable,” said Dr. Loftin. “While I will certainly miss his daily counsel in the President’s Office, athletics provides a vehicle to introduce millions of people to all that this wonderful university has to offer. I know that Jason will excel in maximizing this new strategic opportunity to the benefit of Texas A&M.”
A graduate of Mississippi State University, Cook began his career in athletics media relations, working as the Bulldogs’ primary baseball contact as a student worker. He is a native of Tupelo, Miss., but spent his formative years in Southeast Texas.
Cook, 39, is married to Leann Weidenbach Cook, a Texas A&M graduate and former assistant commissioner for the SEC. They have two sons: Brayden (13) and Jace (9).