Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications at Texas A&M University, has been named "2012 International Brand Master" by Educational Marketing Group (EMG), a Colorado-based international brand-managing firm.
"Jason Cook has managed to reinvent and reinvigorate the Texas A&M brand, while staying consistent and paying homage to the traditions that make the university such a unique institution," noted EMG in announcing that Cook won the award for a variety of accomplishments that came to fruition last year, including the university's move to the Southeastern Conference (SEC). "Perhaps the most telling demonstration of Jason's talent is his work unifying both Texas A&M's academics and athletics brands, an effort that has presented a united front during a time when the university has had more national exposure than ever before," the EMG officials added in their announcement.
Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin joined in congratulating Cook and his team. "I'm delighted to see Mr. Cook be so prominently recognized for his leadership in elevating the Texas A&M brand and helping make the rest of the world know what we take for granted here in Aggieland – that Texas A&M is a top-flight institution and is rapidly achieving even more prominence both nationally and internationally," Loftin said. "Thus, I join with others in the Aggie Network in congratulating him and his team for outstanding work on behalf of our university."
Cook has headed Texas A&M's marketing and communications programs for the past five years. He previously served in similar capacities for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service and Texas A&M Agriculture, which includes the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He began his career in athletic media relations at Mississippi State University, his alma mater, and subsequently served as an assistant vice president for Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corporation, which was once the nation's largest provider of sports medicine and healthcare services.
He said his selection as the "2012 International Brand Master" is a high honor – for him personally and, even more so, for Texas A&M.
"While my name is on the award, it is the result of a team effort reflecting the effective and dedicated work of the entire Division of Marketing & Communications," Cook said. "It was gratifying, indeed, to be a part of the effort where so many people pulled together to strengthen the Texas A&M brand and make the university even better known for all the right reasons."
EMG President Bob Brock cited Cook's "combination of critical thinking and tactical skills" as major factors in his selection for the prestigious award. "We are thrilled and honored that a professional of the caliber of Jason Cook has been named the 2012 International Brand Master," Brock said. "Mr. Cook has had an outstanding impact on the venerable Texas A&M brand, and his combination of strategic thinking and tactical skill inspires us all." The initial field for the award included 15 "exceptional nominees," according to the EMG announcement, with nominees from England, Australia and Belgium among them. A "blue-ribbon" panel of volunteer international judges narrowed the pool to three finalists, with Cook the ultimate winner. Nominees were asked to provide responses to numerous specific questions related to their brand's strategy and tactics and to provide results as well as furnish several letters of support from their colleagues.
In response to the judges' request, Cook provided the following overview as part of the competition process:
"While Texas A&M is one of the nation's largest and most prestigious universities, our brand was not widely known across the country and the institution was perceived much like it was in the 1970s: a regional, all-male military institution, not the thriving, top-20 research university that it is today. Recognizing that athletics is the 'front porch' of a university – providing an opportunity to reach millions of people each Saturday in the fall – I worked directly with the University's President and Board of Regents to initiate a focused plan in 2011 that would increase the visibility of the Texas A&M brand across the country. This effort culminated with Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference on July 1, 2012. While many ascribed different motives for our departure from the Big 12 and fueled many detractors and skeptics, our plan had three primary objectives: increase the exposure for our student-athletes and coaches, as well as for our world-class faculty and their research; create new revenue streams in the form of TV payouts, licensing, sponsorships, philanthropy and ticket sales; and provide long-term stability for the Texas A&M brand in a period of significant athletic conference upheaval. The SEC is widely recognized as the nation's top athletic conference, and through its extensive media partnerships with ESPN and CBS, the national exposure generated by the league is unparalleled. The SEC move allowed us to introduce the Texas A&M brand to an entirely new geographic region of the country and expand the national footprint of the brand. What's more, the SEC's media platform played a significant role in our campaign for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel to become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Today, because of these efforts, Texas A&M is widely recognized as one of the hottest college brands in the country."